Sunday, February 25, 2018

Amnesty’s swipe at Obama over human rights ‘hypocrisy’

 United States President Ba­rack Obama may have to cease speaking with a forked tongue on the continuing misuse of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base as a detention centre for political pri­­soners from other countries and also wake up and smell the “political coffee” over the spreading and deepening rela­tions with Cuba by hemispheric gov­ernments and international organisations.

As the government in Havana was completing arrangements to host this week’s second summit of the Community of Latin Ame­ri-

­can and Caribbean States (CELAC), Amnesty International issued a call last Wednesday for the Obama administration to “end its human rights hypocrisy” by the much-unful­filled promise to close the base

as a detention centre for poli­tical prisoners without a court trial.

Amnesty rebuked the US presi­dent for dishonouring his own expressed commitment of five years ago, on January 22, 2009, to issue an “executive order” for the closure of Guantanamo as a detention centre

and arrange for court trials in the USA for prisoners, declaring in a

media statement from London, England:

“Five years later, this promise of change has become a human rights failure that threatens to haunt

President Obama’s legacy, just as it has his predecessor’s (former president George W Bush), accor­ding to Erika Guevara Rosas, direc­-

tor of Amnesty International’s Ame­ricas Programme.

After a dozen years in detention since the first of hundreds of poli­tical prisoners were brought to Guantanamo—“strapped down in planes like cargo”, said Amnesty—more than 150 men are still there, most of them without charge or trial, with a few subjected to trial “under a military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards…”. 

Last year, Cuba, which has been

protesting since its 1959 revolution the US military presence at Guanta­namo (which is part of Cuban terri­tory), reminded a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that the torture of political prisoners at the naval base has been internationally condemned.

The continuing US military occu­pation of Guantanamo and its mis­use as a detention centre for poli­tical prisoners without legitimate court trials is expected to surface among issues to be addressed during this week’s two-day CELAC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in Havana.

Prior to the summit of heads of state and govern-

ment, a two-day regional forum comprising foreign ministers and national experts from various sectors is sche­duled, the first of which was to begin yesterday.

Caribbean Community (Caricom) Sec­retary General Irwin LaRocque, who will be

among participants, said in our brief telephone conver­sation that he ex­pects “a significant presence” from

the 15-member community for the CELAC summit. He pointed out the Caribbean region was actively involved from the inception in the cre­-

ation of the hem­is­pheric body.

Among the distinguished, special guests to be greeted by Cuban President Raoul Castro will be UN Secretary Gen­eral Ban Ki Moon and the Secretary Gen­eral of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza. 

Established in 2011 in Caracas as an initiative of the now late president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, CELAC has defined itself as “a counterpart of the OAS”. It held its first formal summit in 2013 in Santiago, Chile, the outgoing chair, now to be succeeded by Cuba. 

A distinguishing feature of CELAC from the OAS is both the USA and Cana­da have not been considered for membership at the time of conception of its formation.

The CELAC summit in Ha-

vana will mark the first ever

official visit by an OAS sec­re­-

tary general to Cuba which,

under US pressures follow-

ing the Fidel Castro-led revo­-

lution of 1959, had been 

ex­cluded from membership—

a position the Caribbean island state has since showed no interest in regaining.

Cuba’s deputy Foreign Min­ister, Abelardo Moreno, in briefing the media on the CELAC summit, said he

was opti­mistic it would “yield very positive results for

Latin America and the Carib-

bean”, consistent with shared objectives in the streng­the­n­-

ing of co-operation for deep-

en­ing integration.

Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago was designated as “Guest Country of Hon­our” for this year’s “Cubadisco Music Festival”, which takes place in Havana from May 17-25.

The announcement was made last week by Cuba’s new ambassador to T&T, Guillermo Vazquez Moreno, when he paid a courtesy call on Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran.