February 9, 2009 / 7:32 PM / 11 years ago

Cuba rejects Western calls to free jailed critics

Motorcycles are parked near a wall painting showing retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro (R) and late rebel leader Camilo Cienfuegos outside the Communist Party's headquarters in Old Havana August 12, 2008. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

GENEVA (Reuters) - Cuba rejected calls from Western countries on Monday to release jailed critics of its communist system and told the U.N. Human Rights Council such demands violated its sovereign rights.

The Cuban position was set out in a report on discussions last week in the Council’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism on the island’s human rights record, which was widely praised by developing countries.

During the review, the call for the release of those Western countries regard as political prisoners — and which Cuba denies it has — came from Austria, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

These recommendations, a Cuban statement said, were not acceptable “because they are incompatible with the Cuban people’s right to self-determination (and) because they are not based on reality.”

It said the Western calls, which included recommendations on ensuring media freedom and freedom of expression, reflected support “for the policy of regime change applied to Cuba by successive U.S. administrations.”

In a separate comment included in the Council report, it also made the same charge.

“No country can accept any recommendation that contributes to the implementation of a policy designed by a foreign superpower with the objective of destroying the legitimate constitutional order freely chosen by its people,” it said.

Editing by Jonathan Lynn

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