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UN Panel Criticizes Cuba

April 23, 1999

GENEVA (AP) _ The U.N. Human Rights Commission narrowly voted to criticize Cuba’s record today, when members backed a motion put forward by the Czech Republic and Poland.

Twenty-one countries, including a number of European nations, backed the resolution. Twenty, including Russia and China, voted against and 12 nations abstained.

The United States, which had led action to condemn Cuba in previous years, supported the move. Last year, a U.S. motion was narrowly defeated for the first time since 1991.

``I think it’s a wake-up call for the Cuban government that they have to give greater human rights to their own people,″ Harold Hongju Koh, U.S. assistant secretary of state, told reporters after the vote.

``We consider it a moral victory,″ Cuban delegation leader Carlos Amat said of the one-vote defeat. Cuban officials accused this year’s sponsors of acting as U.S. ``puppets,″ and accused Washington of ``blackmail and arm-twisting.″

Cuba said last year’s vote went in its favor because countries noted a series of signals, including Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba, which demonstrated that the country was opening up.

However, Cuba has faced renewed criticism recently for recent legislation that seeks to punish those who undertake acts deemed to further aggressive U.S. policies toward Cuba, such as the long-standing embargo and subsequent moves to strengthen it.

The measure seems especially aimed journalists who have no ties to any government organization.

The resolution expressed concern about the law and urged the Cuban government to ``afford the country full and open contact with the democratic world″ by ``allowing a freer flow of people and ideas.″

Deploring ongoing rights violations ``despite the expectations raised by some positive steps,″ it also noted the conviction last month of four Cuban dissidents, tried by a closed court on charges of furthering U.S. policies against the communist country.

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