Cuba Signs Human Rights Pacts at UN

But critics say the nation's dissidents must be released
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2008 8:22 AM CST
Oscar Espinosa Chepe, an independent writer and former political prisoner, talks with the Associated Press in Havana, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008. Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque signed two key...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Cuba yesterday signed a pair of legally binding human rights agreements, promising, among other things, to allow its citizens free speech, free association, and the right to travel, the BBC reports. Coming mere days after Raul Castro became president, the gesture could signal a shift in Cuba’s policy, though Cuba insists it is only “formalizing” rights Cubans have long held.

Until recently, Cuba rejected the UN Human Rights Commission as US-biased, but now it has opened itself up for a 2009 inspection from its recently established replacement, the UN Human Rights Council. The two pacts, which Cuba agreed to sign in December, guarantee civil, political, social, and economic rights. But critics say the pacts will mean little unless Cuba releases its political prisoners.