Friday, April 16, 2004

NEW YORK — The assault on a U.S. anti-Castro activist during the U.N. Human Rights Commission session in Geneva Thursday was the fourth transgression in four weeks by the Cuban delegation, according to U.S. representative Richard Williamson, who expects to file a complaint with the United Nations.

The United Nations yesterday had no reaction to the public attack, which occurred inside the organization’s Geneva headquarters, the Palais of Nations. The Cuban delegate who knocked anti-Castro activist Frank Calzon unconscious with a sucker punch was accredited to the six-week session by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“There has been a series of incidents and intimidation,” said Mr. Williamson, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations who leads the U.S. delegation at the session.

In a phone interview yesterday, Mr. Williamson said he had met with European Union counterparts, and they were considering how to file a complaint about the latest attack with the proper U.N. authorities.

“We’ve already filed letters with the head of U.N. security in Geneva, telling them we’re concerned about the security of our delegation and staff,” he said.

Australian Ambassador Michael Smith, chairman of the Human Rights Commission, has also expressed concern.

The attack, which took place immediately after a U.S.-sponsored resolution to condemn Cuba’s human rights violations squeaked through by a single vote, was the fourth use or threat of force by a member of the Cuban contingent on a member of the U.S. delegation, and the third on U.N. property.

In the first incident, shortly after the annual session began March 15, a Cuban delegate “threatened” a U.S. delegate in the hallway outside the commission chambers, Mr. Williamson said.

Three weeks ago, a Cuban official attempted to prevent an employee of the U.S. mission from distributing position papers, and the “scuffling” that followed was broken up by a U.N. security guard.

And then, last weekend, a member of the U.S. delegation was jogging on a Geneva street when a Cuban delegate attempted to intimidate him.

“He was out there and a van pulled up and said, ‘We’re watching you,’” Mr. Williamson said. “This is no way for diplomats accredited by the United Nations to behave.”

U.N. officials in New York and at the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights refused to comment on the incidents. They referred calls to the main U.N. spokesman’s office in Geneva, which could not be reached yesterday afternoon.

Havana’s U.N. missions in New York and Geneva also could not be reached yesterday. In the past, Cuban officials have repeatedly accused U.S. officials of similar harassment. In Geneva, Cuban Ambassador Jorge Mora Godoy accused Mr. Calzon of a previous “provocation” against a member of his delegation.

In a potentially more meaningful counterattack, Havana on Thursday introduced a human rights resolution slamming the United States for its treatment of suspected terrorists detained at the U.S. military prison on Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay.

Human rights experts — who also say it is illegal to detain suspects without formal charges or allowing them legal representation — said they had few hopes that the Guantanamo resolution would pass when it is voted on late next week.

“It’s late in the game” to introduce a resolution, said Human Rights Watch deputy program director Widney Brown, who is monitoring the country resolutions at the commission.

Mr. Williamson was unconcerned. “I say Guantanamo is the only prison on that island that’s open to the International Committee of the Red Cross,” he said. “Hopefully, Cuba will open up [its] prisons the way we do.”

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