UN rights chief to request details on trials of Cuban journalists, activists

9 April 2003

Reacting to the arrest and sentencing of nearly 100 Cuban journalists and human rights activists, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, today said he will request authorities in Havana to provide immediate detailed information on the trial process.

In a press statement issued in Geneva, Mr. Vieira de Mello voiced "disquiet" regarding the wave of recent arrests, in which at least 24 Cuban journalists and as many as 78 human rights activists have been jailed on charges of treason. Reports that several of the subsequent closed trials lasted barely a week but resulted in lengthy prison terms were particularly troubling, he said.

Calling for transparency, the High Commissioner stressed, "There are questions about the fairness of such expedited proceedings, which have been closed to the public and observers." He added that Cuba must ensure that the accused benefit from due process, including the right to an adequate defence.

Mr. Vieira de Mello also recalled that he had raised the issue of the arrests last month during a meeting with Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and in subsequent discussions with Cuban authorities.

In a related development, the Cuban Government has informed the High Commissioner that it was about to respond to an earlier appeal addressed to it by Louis Joinet, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

 

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