- Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Statement by Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, March 1, 2011
Humanity’s conscience is repulsed by the deaths of innocent people under any circumstances, anyplace. Cuba fully shares the worldwide concern for the loss of civilian lives in Libya and hopes that its people are able to reach a peaceful and sovereign solution to the civil war occurring there, with no foreign interference, and guarantee the integrity of that nation.
Most certainly the Libyan people oppose any foreign military intervention, which would delay an agreement even further and cause thousands of deaths, displacement and enormous injury to the population.
Cuba categorically rejects any attempt whatsoever to take advantage of the tragic situation created in order to occupy Libya and control its oil.
It is noteworthy that the voracity for oil, not peace or the protection of Libyan lives, is the motivation inciting the political forces, primarily conservative, which today, in the United States and some European countries, are calling for a NATO military intervention in Libyan territory. Nor does it appear that objectivity, accuracy or a commitment to the truth are prevailing in part of the press reports being used by media giants to fan the flames.
Given the magnitude of what is taking place in Libya and the Arab world, in the context of a global economic crisis, responsibility and a long-term vision should prevail on the part of governments in the developed countries. Although the goodwill of some could be exploited, it is clear that a military intervention would lead to a war with serious consequences for human lives, especially the millions of poor who comprise four fifths of humanity.
Despite the paucity of some facts and information, the reality is that the origins of the situation in North Africa and the Middle East are to be found within the crisis of the rapacious policy imposed by the United States and its NATO allies in the region. The price of food has tripled, water is scarce, the desert is growing, poverty is on the rise and with it, repugnant social inequality and exclusion in the distribution of the opulent wealth garnered from oil in the region.
The fundamental human right is the right to life, which is not worth living without human dignity.
The way in which the right to life is being violated should arouse concern. According to various sources, more than 111 million people have perished in armed conflicts during modern wars. It cannot be forgotten in this room that, if in World War I civilian deaths amounted to 5% of total casualties, in the subsequent wars of conquest after 1990, basically in Iraq, with more than one million, and Afghanistan with more than 70,000, the deaths of innocents stand at 90%. The proportion of children in these figures is horrific and unprecedented.
The concept of “collateral damage,” an offense to human nature, has been accepted in the military doctrine of NATO and the very powerful nations.
In the last decade, humanitarian international law has been trampled, as is occurring on the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base, which usurps Cuban territory.
As a consequence of those wars, global refugee figures have increased by 34%, to more than 26 million people.
Military spending increased by 49% in the decade, to reach $1.5 trillion, more than half of that figure in the United States alone. The industrial-military complex continues producing wars.
Every year, 740,000 human beings die, not only on account of conflicts, but as victims of violent acts associated with organized crime.
In one European country, a woman dies every five days as a result of domestic violence. In the countries of the South, half a million mothers die in childbirth every year.
Every day, 29,000 children die of hunger and preventable diseases. In the minutes that I have been speaking, no less than 120 children have died. Four million perish in their first month of life. In total, 11 million children die every year.
There are 100,000 deaths a day from causes related to malnutrition, adding up to 35 million a year.
In Hurricane Katrina alone, in the most developed country in the world, 1,836 people died, almost all of them African Americans with limited resources. In the last two years, 470,000 people died throughout the world as a result of natural disasters, 97% of them of low income.
In the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti alone, more than 250,000 people died, almost all of them resident in very poor homes. The same thing occurred with homes swept away by excessive rainfall in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
If the developing countries had infant and maternal mortality rates like those of Cuba, 8.4 million children and 500,000 mothers would be saved annually. In the cholera epidemic in Haiti, Cuban doctors are treating almost half of the patients, with a mortality rate five times lower than those being treated by physicians from other countries. Cuban international medical cooperation has made it possible to save more than 4.4 million lives in dozens of countries in four continents.
Human dignity is a human right. Today, 1.4 billion people are living in extreme poverty. There are 1.2 billion hungry people, and a further two billion are suffering from malnutrition. There are 759 million illiterate adults.
The Council has demonstrated its capacity for approaching human rights situations in the world, including those of an urgent nature which require attention and action on the part of the international community. The usefulness of the Universal Periodic Review, as a means of sustaining international cooperation, of evaluating the undertakings of all countries without distinction in this context has been confirmed.
The spirit which animated our actions during the review process of this body was to preserve, improve and strengthen this Council in its function of effectively promoting and protecting all human rights for everyone.
The results of this exercise express a recognition of the Council’s important achievements in its short existence. While it is true that the agreements reached are insufficient in the light of the demands of developing countries, the body has been preserved from those whose aim was to reform it to their convenience in order to satisfy hegemonic appetites and to resuscitate the past of confrontation, double standards, selectivity and imposition.
It is to be hoped from the debates of the last few days that this Human Rights Council will continue constructing and advancing its development as an institution toward the full exercise of its mandate.
It would be very negative if, on the pretext of reviewing the Council’s institutional construction and in abuse of the dramatic juncture which is being discussed, it should be manipulated and pressured in an opportunist way in order to establish precedents and modify agreements.
If the essential human right is the right to life, will the Council be ready to suspend the membership of states that unleash a war?
Is the Council proposing to make some substantial contribution to eliminating the principal threat to the life of the human species which is the existence of enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons, an infinitesimal part of which, or the explosion of 100 warheads, would provoke a nuclear winter, according to irrefutable scientific evidence?
Will it establish a comprehensive protocol on the impact of climate change in the exercise of human rights and proclaim the right to a healthy atmosphere?
Will it suspend states which finance and supply military aid utilized by recipient states for mass, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and for attacks on the civilian population, like those taking place in Palestine?
Will it apply that measure against powerful countries which are perpetrating extra-judicial executions in the territory of other states with the use of high technology, such as smart bombs and drone aircraft?
What will happen to states which accept secret illegal prisons in their territories, facilitate the transit of secret flights with kidnapped persons aboard, or participate in acts of torture?
Can the Council adopt a declaration on the right of peoples to peace?
Will it adopt an action program that includes concrete commitments guaranteeing the right to nutrition in a moment of food crisis, spiraling food prices and the utilization of grain crops to produce biofuels?
Distinguished Ministers and Delegates:
What measures will this Council adopt against a member state which is committing acts that are causing grave suffering and seriously endangering physical or mental integrity, such as the blockade of Cuba, typified as genocide in Article 2, Paragraphs B and C, of the 1948 Geneva Convention?
Thank you very much.