Dissidents in Cuba
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EUROPEAN UNION SHOULD PLACE CONDITIONS ON DIALOGUE WITH CUBA

PRESS RELEASE: EUROPEAN UNION SHOULD PLACE CONDITIONS ON DIALOGUE WITH CUBA
2007-06-15. www.freedomhouse.org

June 14, 2007 — Freedom House welcomes the European Union's decision
this week to maintain diplomatic pressure on the Cuban government, but
entreats European leaders to publicly establish conditions relating to
human rights practices on the island prior to any dialogue with Cuba.
Additionally, the organization urges the EU to meet with leaders of the
Cuban democracy movement.

The European Council concluded a round of discussions among the 27
member states this week, rejecting a proposal from the German presidency
to drop diplomatic sanctions on Havana. In a draft statement prepared
for next week's ministerial meetings in Luxembourg, the EU has said it
will invite a Cuban government delegation to Brussels to resume a
"comprehensive dialogue," during which the EU plans to underscore the
need for respect for democratic values and human rights.

"As the EU develops its approach to dialogue with Cuban authorities,
Freedom House recommends that it consider a path of conditional
engagement, with European concessions requiring concrete actions by the
Cuban government that address the most pressing human rights and civil
liberties issues," said Thomas Melia, Deputy Executive Director of
Freedom House.

"Cuban dissidents living on the island, of course, are prevented by
their government from visiting Brussels to present their views,"
continued Mr. Melia. "So, EU diplomats should make a point of visiting
them when they travel to Cuba."

There are currently nearly 300 prisoners of conscience held by the Cuban
authorities. Countless other human rights defenders and political
dissidents are routinely subjected to interrogation, public harassment,
and intimidation by the state's security services.

"While the liberation of Cuba's political prisoners should remain a
priority, Europeans should also press for the restoration of fundamental
rights denied the entire Cuban population, such as the freedom to
establish a private business, to form and participate in labor unions,
to travel, and the right to access independent information," said Mr.
Melia.

Expanding communication to Cuba's democracy movement would be
particularly timely, given a recent declaration of unity by the island's
most prominent dissidents, the most significant joint initiative by the
democratic opposition movement in years.

"There is no better way for the EU to demonstrate to the Cuban
government that it is serious about human rights than by meeting with
members of the island's peaceful dissident movement," said Mr. Melia.
"European leaders should take advantage of this unique opportunity to
engage with Cuba's independent civic leaders and seek positive ways to
support them as Cubans define the way forward to democracy in their
country."

The EU hardened its policy toward Cuba in 2003, following the Cuban
government's brutal crackdown on political dissidents, but suspended it
in 2005 to allow low-level diplomatic contact with the regime. Since
then, Spain has driven European efforts to restore ties with Cuba; a
controversial visit by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos
with Raúl Castro and other high ranking Cuban officials took place in
April of this year. In a letter to Moratinos, Freedom House expressed
disappointment with Spain's attempts to single-handedly renew dialogue
without consideration of Cuba's dissident community.

Cuba is consistently ranked as "Not Free" in Freedom House's annual
survey, Freedom in the World, and is considered to be among the "worst
of the worst" in terms of civil and political freedoms enjoyed by the
population.

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports
the expansion of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political
rights and civil liberties in Cuba since 1972.

For more information, visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: Cuba
Freedom of the Press 2007: Cuba

###

Contact: Amanda Abrams, 202-747-7035

Amanda Abrams
Communications Officer
Freedom House
1301 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 747-7035 (w)
(919) 491-2798 (c)
www.freedomhouse.org

http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/article.asp?artID=10491

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