Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875,March 2, 2005

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Political & Human Rights Abuses in Cuba
Burton, Smith Schedule Thursday Joint Hearing

BACKGROUND: Thursday marks the second anniversary of the arrest of 95 human rights activists by the regime of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Subjected to summary trials, the activists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years for such acts as “contempt against authority.” Since Castro assumed power in 1959, his regime has used extrajudicial procedures to halt the free exchange of ideas and political expression.  In particular, the regime has targeted thousands of intellectuals, scholars and pro-democracy activists. In response, the United States has imposed a series of strict trade sanctions and travel restrictions. In April 2004, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) approved a U.S.-backed resolution urging that Cuba “should refrain from adopting measures which could jeopardize the fundamental rights” of its citizens. The Commission “deplores the events which occurred last year in Cuba involving verdicts against certain political dissidents and journalists.”  Ironically, Cuba was named to the Commission earlier this month, despite a December 2004 internal UN report which expressed strong criticism of the UNCHR because it included some of the worst human rights violators among its 53 members. Late last year, the European Union ended an 18-month diplomatic standoff that began after Castro’s crackdown in March 2003. The EU cited Cuba’s “progress towards pluralism and respect for human rights.” Major international human rights organizations are calling for an immediate review of this EU decision. In response to decades of deplorable actions and egregious human rights violations by the Castro regime, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), during his previous tenure as Chairman of the House International Relations’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere (1995-97), introduced the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (also known as the Helms-Burton Act or the LIBERTAD Act). The Helms-Burton Act placed trade sanctions on the Castro government, as well as outlined a plan for the support of a transitional government that would eventually lead to a democratically elected Cuban government.

WHAT: Joint Subcommittee Oversight Hearing: Year Two of Castro’s Brutal Crackdown on  Dissidents

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, U.S. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman

Immediately preceding hearing, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere markup of H.Con.Res ____, Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the two-year anniversary of the human rights crackdown in Cuba.
WHEN: 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 3, 2005
WHERE: Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building
WITNESSES: Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Frank Calzon, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba; Jose Cohen, former Cuban State Security Officer; and Eric L. Olson, Advocacy Director- The Americas, Amnesty International USA.

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