The United Nations Human Rights Committee based in Geneva this Thursday condemned Cuba for its spring 2003 crackdown that sent 75 peaceful dissidents, mostly democracy advocates and independent journalists to prison for terms averaging 20 years.
However, the resolution presented by Honduras passed by a slim majority of one vote (22/21) and 10 abstentions.
Most Latin American countries on the panel censured Fidel Castro's regime, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and sponsor Honduras, while Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay abstained.
Ireland, in the name of the European Union voted for the resolution, as did the United States, Australia and Japan. China and India voted against the resolution together with Russia, Pakistan and most of the African bloc.
Besides calling on the Castro regime to avoid "measures that could threaten the fundamental rights ... of its citizens", the resolution urges La Havana to cooperate with the U.N.'s special envoy for Cuba, French jurist Christine Chanet, personal representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The head of the Cuban delegation claimed the resolution had been drafted by the United States describing Honduras as an "instrument" of the ongoing President Bush administration to attack Fidel Castro.
"What we have here today is a new episode of the ongoing farce that the U.S. government has been imposing on this Committee for over a decade," said Juan Antonio Fernandez, the Cuban Foreign Ministry's Director of multilateral affairs.
Last year, when the internal repression events in Cuba were still unfolding, the Committee voted a resolution calling on Havana to permit a U.N. rights observer visit the island. However the 45-year-old Castro regime refused point blank.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson supported the resolution in response to the "brutal repression" unleashed last year by the Castro regime against people "whose only crime had been speaking the truth about the Castro regime".
China and Russia supported Cuba and said they were uncomfortable with the resolution. "The road to protecting human rights lies in constructive dialogue without external pressure," said the delegate from Russian that faces mounting international criticism for widespread rights abuses in Chechnya.
The Chinese representative coincided with his Cuban colleague in calling the United States "the principal engine" driving the resolution adding that "China deplores the sad tolerance shown by the Committee towards Washington's the hegemonic behaviour".
Ireland representing the EU urged Castro "to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience", insisting on a renewed Cuban capital punishment moratorium which was suspended last year when three Cubans were summarily executed for trying to highjack a boat to escape to Florida.
Non-governmental organizations criticized the resolution for its moderate language, too soft on the wave of arrests in Cuba last year.