Cuba pledged Friday to allow a visit by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, whose predecessor tried unsuccessfully to obtain authorization to visit the Caribbean island.
The jurist and member of the U.N. Committee against Torture, Fernando Mariño, told Efe that the Cuban delegates who took part in the session in which the situation in his country was reviewed, “committed themselves to arranging a visit” by Juan Mendez, though he gave no specific date.
If that is done, “there would be an independent, competent international agency able to travel everywhere prisoners are held and would report autonomously on what goes on there,” he said.
For Cuba it would mean showing “that it has no political fear of a checkup by foreign organizations.”
The U.N. Committee against Torture also said in its report Friday that it was concerned about the continued complaints of arbitrary arrests for brief periods in Cuba, practiced against members of the political opposition, defenders of human rights and independent journalists.
Cuba has denied any such increase in this kind of arrests without a court order and moreover maintains that there are no political prisoners on the Communist-ruled island, instead referring to these individuals as “mercenaries” at the service of the United States.
Cuba has come under heavy criticism from the United States and Europe in recent years for locking up dissidents, most notably a group of 75 political opponents who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003.
London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International had adopted all of the Group of 75 as prisoners of conscience and Havana came under international pressure to release them after one member, Orlando Zapata, died following a lengthy hunger strike in February 2010.
After Spanish-backed talks between the Castro regime and the island’s Catholic hierarchy, all of the Group of 75 members still behind bars were released last year.