Washington Post Opposes U.S. Withdrawal from U.N. Human Rights Council 

An editorial in the Washington Post says “the United States’ decision to withdraw from the [Human Rights Council] . . . is a counterproductive step and another sign of President Trump’s retreat from global leadership. The administration is picking up its marbles and leaving rather than staying to fight for human dignity.”[1]

Yes, as Ambassador Haley mentioned, the Council is not perfect. “But these deficiencies must also be considered against the vital need for a credible U.N. body on human rights with U.S. participation.”

“However flawed the council’s work has been, walking away rewards all the oppressors, who undoubtedly will be thrilled that they no longer face lectures from the United States. What good will come from pulling out? Will it change the behavior of the regimes for the better? Will it make the council more effective? We don’t think so. The decision to walk away is in keeping with Mr. Trump’s lack of interest in human rights elsewhere, glad-handing autocrats and dictators with nary a word about their bone-crushing repressions. A real commitment to human rights would be to stay in the council and use the bully pulpit to confront the bullies.”

This editorial supports the opinion expressed in yesterday’s post to this blog.

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[1] Editorial, Trump walks away from the U.N. Human Rights council—and rewards the oppressors, Wash. Post (June 20, 2018).

 

 

Cuba Claims To Have One  of the Best Human Rights Records in the World    

Desiree Llaguno, a Cuban attorney and member of the Society of International Law of the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, claims that Cuba has one of the best human rights records in the world. This assertion was published in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, on May 14, the day before Cuba’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights council in Geneva, Switzerland.[1]

The foundation for this claim is Cuba’s ratification of 44 of the 61 international human rights instruments. In so doing, Cuba adopts and incorporates those obligations to “the national reality.” In at least one instance (the Convention on the Rights of the Child), Cuba exceeds the obligations of the treaty.

Another pillar of this claim was the assertion that in its last UPR in 2013, of the 292 recommendations for improving its human rights record, Cuba accepted 230, took note of another 40 while rejecting only 20 which it claims contained “interventionist positions.”

In contrast, Cuba says, the U.S. has ratified only 18 of these 61 international treaties.[2]

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[1]  Cuba, among the countries most committed to human rights, Granma (May 14, 2018) Other details about the upcoming UPR of Cuba are set forth in (a) What do you know about the presentation of Cuba in the Universal Periodic Review on Human rights  (+PDF), Cubadebate (May 15, 2018); and  these posts to dwkcommentaries: Cuba’s Human Rights Record Being Subjected to Universal Periodic Review by U.N. Human Rights Council (April 30, 2018); Advance Questions for Cuba’s Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council (May 11, 2018).

[2] The U.S. record of acceptance of multilateral human rights treaties is discussed in these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Multilateral Treaties Ratified by the U.S. [Nineteen] (Feb. 9, 2013); Multilateral Treaties signed, But Not Ratified, by the U.S. [Nine] (Feb. 12, 2013); Multilateral Treaties Not Signed and Ratified by the U.S. [Seven] (Feb. 16, 2013).

 

Cuban Council of Churches Helps People with Disabilities

                                                                                                                            Recently the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC) and CBM International, an international Christian development organization, celebrated 20 years of working together to help people with disabilities.[1]

This joint effort includes preventing blindness as a result of cataracts and retinopathy in premature babies, supporting those with limited vision and preventing deafness. Other programs have been education for children with limited vision, the early detection of diseases that may aggravate eye problems, attention to those affected by Hurricane Matthew, and community programs.

CIC President Reverend Joel Ortega Dopico of the Iglesia Presbiteriana-Reformada en Cuba noted the beauty of outcomes, the support provided to beneficiaries of the Revolution’s programs,  including professional training provided medical staff and the equipment made available to hospitals and special schools. He likewise emphasized that the effort has served to break the blockade imposed by the U.S. These accomplishments, he added, meshed well with the country’s public policies, adding new knowledge and initiatives to government efforts. Gratitude, he said, is visible in the faces of mothers and fathers when they see their children receiving treatment free of charge.

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[1] Rodriguez, Serving together, a call to life, Granma (Dec. 21, 2017); CBM in Cuba.

U.S. Entry Into Cuban War of Independence and Establishment of Protectorate of Cuba, 1898-1934

U.S. political clashes of 1898-1934 between advocates for and against U.S. imperialism is the subject of the new boook–The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (Henry Holt & Co. 2017)–by Stephen Kinzer. [1]

An important part of that early history is the U.S. decision to enter the second Cuban War of Independence in 1898 and convert it into what we in the U.S. call the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Senate’s ratification of the Treaty of Paris ending that war and documenting U.S. acquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines and the U.S. establishment of a de facto protectorate of Cuba, 1898-1934.

Here are some of the book’s highlights about Cuba’s involvement in this drama.

Authorisation for U.S. Entry Into the Cuban War of Independence

After the February 15, 1898, explosion of the S.S. Maine battleship in Havana harbour and the subsequent, insistent calls of the Randolph Hearst press to “Remember the Maine,” there was no surprise when President William McKinley on April 11 made a passionate call for U.S. intervention. He said, “Forcible intervention of the [U.S.] as a neutral to stop [this war would be] in the cause of humanity and to put an end to the barbarities, bloodsheed, starvation, and horrible murders now existing there, and which the parties to the conflict are either unable or unwilling to stop or mitigate. . . . It is specially our duty [to intervene], for it is right at our door. . . . Surely the there was never a more righteous cause than this for any nation to ask for justice.” (Id. at 36-37.)

Eight days later (April 19), Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Republican of Massachusetts, while emphasising that he did not want the U.S. to annex or colonize Cuba, introduced a resolution declaring that if Spain did not withdraw from Cuba, the U.S. would declare war. An anti-imperialist or anti-interventionist, Senator Henry Teller of Colorado, offered an amendment to the resolution to make that Lodge concession express. The amendment stated: “The people of the island of Cuba are, and of right ought to be, free and independent, and the [U.S.] hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, once that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people.” Lodge acquiesced to the amendment, and as amended the resolution passed the Senate, 42-35 and the House 311-6; the next day President McKinley signed the resolution. (Id. at 38.)

Immediately thereafter, on April 24 and 25, Spain and the U.S. declared war against each other. (Ibid.)

Ending the Spanish-American War

The U.S. military forces actually entered the war on  June 10, and military hostilities ended on July 16 with a proclamation of peace on August 12. The Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, officially ended the war with Spain ceding to the U.S. the following: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines. (Id. at 61-66, 92.)

On February 6, 1899, the U.S. Senate, 57-27, ratified the Treaty of Paris. (Id. at 137.)

U.S. Establishes Its Conditions for the De Facto Protectorate of Cuba

Purusant to that Treaty and the terms of the Teller Amendment, the U.S. immediately assumed governance of Cuba as a de facto protectorate. Also almost immediately some in the U.S. government began to question the wisdom of the Teller Amendment’s commitment to transfer the governance and control of the island to its people.

A major reason for this attitude was the realisation that any popularly elected Cuban government would at least be partially black and a belief that they were not qualified to hold such positions. Indeeed, General Leonard Wood, the U.S. Governor-General of Cuba, described them as “only partially civilized.” (Id. at 137.)

The idea of amending or repealing the Teller Amendment, however, went nowhere. Instead, U.S. General James Wilson proposed that ¨Cuba be granted independence under a treaty that would ´practically bind Cuba . . . And put her destinies under our control.´¨ This approach was endorsed by President McKinley in his second inaugural address in March 1901: “The new Cuba . . .must . . . Be bound to us by ties of singular intimacy.” (Id.at 189.)

To that end U.S. Senator Orville Platt, chair of the Senate Committee on Cuban Relations, introduced a bill drafted by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and Senators Henry Cabot Lodge and Secretary of War Elihu Root but known as the Platt Amendment that became law on March 2, 1901 as part of the Military Appropriations Act.  (Id.at 191-92.) It affirmed Cuba’s right to independence only on these conditions:

[a] Cuba “shall never ento any treaty or other contract with any foreign power or powers which will permit [them] to obtain by colonization or for military or naval purpose, or otherwise, lodgment in or control over any portion of said island;”

[b] “Cuba consents that the [U.S.] may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence;”

[c] “Cuba will sell and lease to the [U.S.] land necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain points, to be agreed upon with the [U.S.] President,” which turned out to be the lease of Guantanamo Bay as discussed in prior posts.

Adoption of Cuban Constitution of 1901

Thereafter U.S. General Leonard Wood arranged for “the election of delegates to the [Cuban] constitutional convention” and told them “the constitution would have to guarantee an American ‘right of intervention.’ He ensured this would happen By bribing Cuban military officers and rebel leaders and by warning the delegates that failure to do so would put Cuba at the “not-so-tender mercies of the [U.S.] Congress.” As a result, on May 28, 1901, the delegates, 15 to 14, accepted these conditions for the Cuban constitution, which was adopted on December 25, 1901. (Id.at 190, 193.)

Cuba-American Treaty of 1903

These same conditions were reiterated in the Cuba-American Treaty of 1903, which was used to justify the Second Occupation of Cuba, 1906-1909, with future U.S. President and Supreme Court Justice, William Howard Taft, as Provisional Governor. (Id.at 193.)

Cuba-American Treaty of 1934

During the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. and Cuba concluded the Cuban-American Treaty of 1934 that eliminated the conditions of the Platt Amendment. (Id. at 236.)

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[1] Kinzer is an author, journalist and Senior fellow at the Watson Institute for Interntional and Political Affiars at Brown University. Here are two positive reviews of the book: Lind, From Isolation to Intervention: Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain square off over American imperialism, N.Y. Times (Jan. 29, 2017); Lears, How the US Began Its Empire, N.Y. Review of Books (Feb. 23, 2017).

Trump Administration Reviewing U.S. Policies Regarding Cuba

At the February 3 White House press conference, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump Administration was engaged in “a full review of all U.S. policies toward Cuba” with a focus on its human rights policies as part of the Administration’s “ensuring human rights for all citizens throughout the world.”

Such a comprehensive review has been anticipated. So far, however, no details have emerged as to how those policies might be changed.

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White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, 2/3/07, No. 8; Reuters, Trump Administration Reviewing Cuba Policy: White HOuse, N.Y. Times (Feb. 3, 2017).

Criticism of U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Agreement 

The head of New Jersey’s state police has criticized the two countries’ law enforcement agreement of January 16, 2017, because, he says, he has read the agreement and it does not require Cuba to extradite Joanne Chesimard (a/k/a Assata Shakur) to the U.S.[1]

After reviewing what we know about this woman, we will examine the police statement and provide commentary.

Chesimard/ Shakur

In the 1960s-1970s Chesimard, a U.S. citizen, was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army in the U.S. In 1977 she was convicted in New Jersey state court for aiding and abetting first-degree murder, assault and battery of a police officer (New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster), assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to kill, illegal possession of a weapon, and armed robbery during a gunfight on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973.

She was sentenced to life in New Jersey state prison, but in 1979 she escaped and in 1984 traveled to Cuba. At some time thereafter President Fidel Castro granted her asylum, and she has been living there under the name Assata Shakur. She is now around 70 years old. The FBI has listed her as one of its “Most Wanted” and offered a reward of $1 million for her apprehension; the New Jersey Attorney General has offered to match that reward.

Since at least 1997 there have been various unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. government and others to obtain her extradition to the U.S.

Statement by New Jersey State Police Superintendent

The Superintendent Rick Fuentes’ January 18 statement reads as follows:

  • “On Monday, January 16, 2017, the White House signed a law enforcement pact with the government of Cuba that included the sharing of national security information on matters related to fighting terrorism and the scourge of the international narcotics trade. I have read this pact with great interest, as any aspect of the continued negotiations to normalize relations with Cuba impacts our continued advocacy to seek the return of Joanne Chesimard. Chesimard executed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 and fled to Cuba after escaping a New Jersey prison in 1979. She is most prominent among a rogue’s gallery of cop killers and domestic terrorists that have been given sanctuary by the Castro regime these past thirty years.”
  • With a continued sense of bewilderment and confusion not uncommon to the course of these negotiations, the pact does not address the return of: Joanne Chesimard; Victor Manuel Gerena, a member of Los Macheteros who was removed from the FBI Top Ten list one month ago; Charlie Hill, a member of the Republic of New Afrika, alleged to have killed a New Mexico state trooper in 1971; or, William Guillermo Morales, the murderous bomb-maker for the Puerto Rican separatist group, FALN.”
  • “Their omission from this agreement and from the negotiations-at-large is so glaring as to signal a clear intent by the Obama Administration to ignore these fugitives. By burning the last bridge to this Administration’s opportunity to gain their negotiated return, families who have long suffered the consequences of their terrorist acts and law enforcement everywhere in this country have been shown the back of the hand. An ignominious torch has been passed to the next president.”
  • “We are not deterred. I can say, unequivocally, that Governor Chris Christie, State Attorney General Chris Porrino and I remain resolute in our efforts to follow every political course leading to the return of Joanne Chesimard and the other remaining terrorist fugitives. We approach the next presidential administration with a renewed sense of optimism and moral superiority that justice will prevail.”

Comments

The Superintendent’s statements regarding Chesimard/Shakur are believed to be basically correct, and it is most understandable that the New Jersey State Police want her extradited to the U.S. and returned to New Jersey state prison.

The Superintendent says he has read the recent MOU in question and that it does not require Cuba to make that extradition. I have not been able to locate that MOU so cannot independently verify the validity of his statement. But for present purposes I will assume that his statement about the MOU is basically correct.

I assume, on the other hand, that the MOU does not contain a U.S. agreement to not continue to seek her extradition or a Cuban statement or promise not to extradite her. If it had, I am confident that the Superintendent would have so stated and raised the ante for his protest.

He also asserts that the subject of this requested extradition has not been raised by the U.S. in “the negotiations-at-large.” Although I have not been personally involved in those negotiations, I believe this to be a false statement. As noted in earlier posts, public reports indicate that the two countries’ respective requests for extraditions of criminals or suspects, which I believe includes the U.S. request regarding Chesimard/Shakur, have been the subjects of several such bilateral negotiating sessions since December 17, 2014.

As a result, I conclude that the parties have not been able to come to an agreement about such extraditions or about a judicial procedure for resolving any such disputes. Therefore, there apparently was no mention of the subject in the MOU in question.

Moreover, the Superintendent also fails to recognize a major legal issue regarding the requested Chesimard/Shakur extradition because of an extradition treaty between the two countries. Therefore, we will look at that treaty and the issue it raises regarding this possible extradition.

U.S.-Cuba Extradition Treaty.

As explained in an earlier post,[2] on March 2, 1905, the two countries entered into such a treaty, the “Treaty between the United States and Cuba for the mutual extradition of fugitives from justice.” Under this treaty, as amended, each country shall grant extradition of persons covered by Article I for crimes covered by Article II, as amended and expanded by Articles I and II of the Additional Extradition Treaty between the parties, which entered into force on June 18, 1926.

The persons covered by Article I are “persons who, having been charged as principals, accomplices or accessories with or convicted of any crimes or offenses specified in the following article, and committed within the jurisdiction of one of the high contracting parties, shall seek an asylum or be found within the territories of the other: Provided that this shall only be done upon such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive or person so charged shall be found, would justify his or her apprehension and commitment for trial if the crime or offense had been there committed.” This obviously covers Chesimard/Shakur, who does not fall within the exception under Article V of the treaty, “Neither of the contracting parties shall be bound to deliver up its own citizens under the stipulations of this Treaty,” unless she has been granted Cuban citizenship.

The long list of crimes covered by Article II, as amended, includes (1) “Murder, comprehending the offenses expressed in the Penal Code of Cuba as assassination, parricide, infanticide and poisoning; manslaughter, when voluntary; the attempt to commit any of these crimes.” This obviously covers the requested extradition discussed here.

Under Article VI of the original treaty, however, the requested country (Here, Cuba) is not obligated to extradite someone when the offense is of “a political character.” The exact language of this provision states, “A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offense in respect of which his surrender is demanded be of a political character, or if it is proved that the requisition for his surrender has, in fact, been made with a view to try or punish him for an offense of a political character.” (Emphasis added.)

The only limitation on this exception is in Article VI itself, which states, “An attempt against the life of the head of a foreign government or against that of any member of his family when such attempt comprises the act either of murder, assassination, or poisoning, shall not be considered a political offense or an act connected with such an offense.” This exception, however, is not applicable to the case under consideration here.

Moreover, Article VI states, “If any question shall arise as to whether a case comes within the provisions of this article [VI], the decision of the authorities of the government on which the demand for surrender is made, or which may have granted the extradition shall be final. (emphasis added.) This exception seems to cover Chesimard/Shakur as discussed next.

The Treaty Issue Regarding Chesimard/Shakur

After fleeing to Cuba in 1984, at date unknown the Cuban government apparently granted her political asylum and perhaps Cuban citizenship. Assuming that to be the case, that appears to negate Cuba’s obligation under the treaty to extradite her to the U.S.

It is not known whether the Cuban government has the legal authority to revoke that grant of asylum (and of citizenship?) and whether it would do so in this case. However, after a bilateral negotiation session in Washington, D.C. in February 2015 Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s lead diplomat for these negotiations, said the issue of extraditing people between Cuba and the U.S. had been discussed many times in the past and that the two countries had signed a treaty on the topic in 1906 which has a clause such that it would not apply in cases involving political activities. “Therefore, Cuba has legitimately given political asylum to a small group of U.S. citizens, because we have reason to believe that they deserve this and that is how far we’ve gone. And when one grants political asylum, then you cannot get into these types of discussions.” She added that after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 the U.S. had not honored the treaty when Cuba asked the U.S. to extradite “members of the Cuban dictatorship who were responsible for terrible crimes.”[3]

In June 2016, the two countries held another negotiating session in Havana focused on counterterrorism cooperation, the subject of the January 16, 2017, MOU. Outsiders speculated that the meeting may have included discussions about a possible high-profile prisoner swap: U.S.-jailed Cuban spy Ana Belén Montes in exchange for Chesimard/Shakur). The State Department, however, has refused to confirm that such an exchange was being discussed. Instead the Department merely stated that the U.S. “continues to seek the return by Cuba of fugitives from US justice” and that the State Department “brings out the cases of fugitives to the Cuban Government to be settled and will continue to do so at every appropriate opportunity.” [4]

Therefore, unless there is some error in my analysis, the strong desire by many in New Jersey and elsewhere in the U.S. for this extradition appears to be a lost cause unless the Cuban government has the authority under its own laws to revoke the grant of asylum (and citizenship?) and chooses to exercise it. Or the Cuban government just decides to extradite her without changing her asylee or citizenship status.

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[1] Assoc. Press, With No Deal on Convicted Killer, Police Slam US-Cuba Pact, N.Y. Times (Jan. 20, 2017),‘Goodbye, Obama! NJ State Police slams president on the way out (Jan. 18?, 2017); New Jersey State Police, Colonel Rick Fuentes’ Response to the Recently Signed U.S./Cuban Law Enforcement Pact (Jan. 18?, 2017).

[2] Issues Regarding Cuba and U.S. Extradition of the Other’s Fugitives, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 24, 2015). Moreover, the “political offense” provision of the U.S.-Cuba treaty is not sui generis, but in fact is a common provision in other U.S. extradition treaties. (Ibid.; Extradition Has Become a Hot Topic for the United States, dwkcommentaries.com (July 25, 2016).

[3] U.S. and Cuba Hold Productive Second Round of Negotiations, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 6, 2015).

[4] U.S. and Cuba Discuss Counterterrorism Cooperation, dwkcommentaries.com (June 10, 2016).

Report for dwkcommentaries –2016 

This blog, which started on April 4, 2011, reports the following activity through December 31, 2016:

YEAR POSTS COMMENTS (by dwkcommentaries) VIEWS
2011 190        26  9,189
2012 179     170 51,164
2013   86     708 49,082
2014 138      47 58,602
2015 191      60 62,990
2016 149      55 56,831
TOTAL 933 1,066 287,858

The busiest day for 2016 and for all time was December 10, 2016, with 1,725 views. For 2016 as a whole the viewers came from 174 countries with most from the U.S.A. followed by the United Kingdom and Canada This blog has 639 followers (Facebook, 406; direct, 233).

The following were the most popular posts in 2016:

As indicated in detail in the Pages section on the left side of the home page, the posts and comments for 2011-2016 fall into the following categories (as stated in the Lists of Posts to dwkcommentaries-Topical):

  • Cuba [history and politics]
  • Education [my post-secondary education]
  • El Salvador [history and politics]
  • Law (Criminal Justice)
  • Law (International Criminal Court)
  • Law (Refugee & Asylum)
  • Law (Treaties)
  • Law (U.S. Alien Tort Statute)
  • Law (U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act)
  • Lawyering [my practice of law]
  • Miscellaneous
  • Personal [my personal background]
  • Religion [predominantly Christianity]
  • United States (History)
  • United States (Politics)

The blogger would appreciate receiving substantive comments on his posts, including corrections and disagreements.