On March 31, delegations from Cuba and the United States met in Washington to discuss human rights. Pedro Luis Pedroso, Deputy Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry and head of the Cuban delegation, explained at a March 26 press conference in Havana that Cuba proposed the meeting in July 2014. The offer was repeated and agreed to by the U.S. in January in the midst of talks to restore diplomatic relations.
Pedroso explained that Cuba’s aim is for discussion on human rights to develop in a constructive environment and on a reciprocal basis, without conditions or discriminatory treatment, and with full respect for sovereign equality, independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of the parties.
He added that Cuba does not consider itself to be perfect and recognizes that there remain important goals to achieve. However, he noted the recognition the country received at the last Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, where the international community praised and commended Cuban achievements in areas such as education, health and access to cultural rights, and the contribution the island has made in those same areas in other countries.
Pedroso added that the dialogue will also be an opportunity for Cuba to raise its concerns regarding the human rights situation in the U.S. and elsewhere where the U.S. has a direct impact.
“These talks are an indication of Cuba’s willingness to address any subject with the U.S. despite our differences, based on equality and reciprocity,” he said. “We are conscious of our profound differences with the U.S. government in terms of political systems, democracy, human rights and international law, and at the same time we maintain the unwavering will that both countries interact in a civilized fashion in recognition and respect of these differences,” he added.
Asked about possible friction on specific topics such as political rights, Pedroso said that Cuba maintains that there are different political and democratic models, and does not accept that a single model be established as the reference.
He also emphasized that international law recognizes the right of each country to establish the political system it considers most appropriate in accordance with its conditions, specific characteristics and historical, economic and social history.
Posted below is the statement of the Cuban delegation following the March 31 meeting.
Statement of Cuban Delegation to Human Rights Dialogue with U.S.
March 31, 2015, the first meeting took place between delegations from the United States and Cuba on human rights issues, as was proposed by Cuba in July of 2014, and accepted by the U.S. in January this year. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tomasz Malinowski and Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta led their respective delegations which held dialogue in a respectful, professional environment.
Cuba’s representatives expressed their interest that the dialogue contribute to addressing the issue of human rights effectively and without discrimination, with full respect for sovereign equality, independence and non-intervention in the internal affairs of the parties.
The Cuban delegation likewise emphasized the necessity of addressing an adequate balance of questions within the area of civil and political rights and that of economic, social and cultural rights. The Cuban delegation conveyed with equal emphasis its profound concern regarding guarantees for and protection of human rights in the U.S. – in particular the worsening of police brutality and abuse, following a discriminatory pattern, and limitations on the exercise of labour rights and internationally recognized trade union freedoms.
At the same time, Cuba emphasized violations of human rights in the so-called war on terrorism, including torture, extra-judicial executions with the use of drones, espionage, and extraterritorial surveillance.
Conscious of our profound differences with the U.S. government in the arena of political systems, democracy and international law, Cuba reaffirms its invariable intention that the two countries relate to each other in a civilized manner with recognition of and respect for these differences, as well as its willingness to address any issue whatsoever with the United States, within a framework of equality, respect and reciprocity.
Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(Granma International. Photo: CubaDebate)