U.N. Rights Head Condemns Cuba for Arresting Activists


The United Nations' top human rights official on Tuesday condemned Cuba for arresting activists and urged authorities to release those held, describing the detentions as "arbitrary" and "harassment".

Cuba marked Human Rights Day on December 10 by detaining opposition activists or barring them from leaving their homes to prevent protests against the Communist authorities, according to rights groups.

"There have been many hundreds of arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions –- which in my view amount to harassment –- in the past six weeks alone," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement on the organization’s website.

"These often take place without a warrant and ahead of specific meetings or demonstrations, and seem to be aimed at preventing people from exercising their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly," he added.

This showed "an extraordinary disdain for the importance of human rights on the part of the Cuban authorities", Zeid said, calling for the release of those "who may still be in detention as a consequence of the legitimate exercise of their rights".

The top American diplomat in Havana, Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey DeLaurentis, said Tuesday that Cuba could do more to liberalize its economy and political system, ahead of the Thursday anniversary of the two countries' announcing they would begin to normalize relations.