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HQ/565
18 June 1996

'BROTHERS TO THE RESCUE CORNER' NEAR CUBAN MISSION POSES SECURITY RISK, CUBA TELLS HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE

18 June 1996


Press Release
HQ/565


'BROTHERS TO THE RESCUE CORNER' NEAR CUBAN MISSION POSES SECURITY RISK, CUBA TELLS HOST COUNTRY COMMITTEE

19960618 United States Says Cuban Mission Given 24-Hour Security, Consultations on Street Sign Continuing with New York City Authorities

The emplacement of a street sign reading "Brothers to the Rescue Corner" within the security area of the Cuban Mission violated the United States' obligations as host country and affected the normal functioning of that Mission, the representative of Cuba told the Committee on Relations with the Host Country this afternoon.

Addressing the Committee four weeks after it first raised the matter before the Committee on 14 May, he said inaction on the part of the United States had created a security risk for the Cuban Mission. If the United States could not ensure compliance with its obligations, Cuba would have to take the matter to the General Assembly.

Responding to Cuba's statement, the representative of the United States said his Mission's consultations on the matter with New York City authorities were continuing. As host country, the United States was responsible for ensuring the security of missions and their ability to function. The Cuban Mission received round-the-clock security and any complaints received immediate attention. Under United States law, the naming and emplacement of street signs was a strictly local matter in which the federal government played no part.

Also this afternoon, the Committee authorized its Chairman to send a letter to Permanent Missions of Members and Observers to the United Nations, including a questionnaire regarding the provision of medical services for mission staff. It took that action after hearing a briefing from the Chairman of its Working Group on Indebtedness, Jorge Sanchez (Spain). Statements on specific elements of the questionnaire were made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, United States, United Kingdom and Costa Rica.

The Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on Relations with the Host Country met this afternoon at the request of Cuba, to consider the question of the security of missions and the safety of their personnel. It had before it a letter from Cuba to the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations (document A/AC.154/290) concerning the installation of a street sign reading "Brothers to the Rescue Corner" within the security area of Cuba's diplomatic mission.

When the Committee last met to consider that matter, the United States Mission undertook to conduct consultations with New York City authorities aimed at removal of the sign, the letter states. However, more than three weeks had passed and the United States had not indicated the manner in which it would proceed to carry out that commitment. On the contrary, on 14 May, as the Committee met to consider the matter, a second, identical sign, was installed across the street from the Cuban Mission.

The letter states that Cuba denounces the installation of both signs as inadmissible and as a security risk. It calls on the United States Mission to take speedy action to carry out its commitment undertaken in the Committee and as host country.

Statements

NICOS AGATHOCLEOUS (Cyprus), Committee Chairman, said it was agreed on 14 May that the host country delegation would pursue the matter with the City authorities within three to four weeks and report on the results of those contacts. It was his understanding that the host country delegation was still discussing the matter wit the City authorities.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said more than four weeks had passed since the Committee last considered the matter Cuba had raised, and 46 days since the ceremony installing the sign in question. Cuba's communication on the issue to the United States remained unanswered.

Since installation of the second sign, the United States investigation of illegal activities violating international law had concluded by issuing an emergency order to revoke the pilots licence of the "Brothers to the Rescue", he said. The violations of Cuban space on a regular basis had been deemed by North American authorities as a violation of international law, Cuban law and United States law. That proper, albeit late, measure was being done after two years and 29 violations of Cuban airspace.

Warnings of the security risks involved in the placement of the two signs bearing the name of that terrorist organization had been demonstrated, he said. On Memorial Day [27 May], several individuals sought to put flowers within the security area of the Cuban Mission. They were prevented by New

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York City police. Official acts, perpetrated by the highest New York authorities, violated the United States obligations as host country. The impact on the normal functioning of the Cuban Mission had increased.

The United States federal government had the means to ensure respect for its international obligations by local authorities, he said. United States inaction might step up impunity or terrorist activities against Cuba and its Permanent Mission to the United Nations. The Committee had been unable to do anything; the Chairman's hands had been tied. Unfortunately, the consensus rule in bodies with closed membership, such as the Committee, allowed an effective veto by the host country, even on matters involving implementation of the Vienna Convention.

The act of the Mayor of New York was offensive to his country, its Mission and its diplomats, he said. If the United States could not ensure compliance with its obligations, Cuba would have to take the matter to the General Assembly.

VICTOR MARRERO (United States) said that, under United States law, the naming and emplacement of signs on the streets was a strictly local matter in which the federal government played no role. In this case, the host country had no prior knowledge of the action by the government of New York City. The United States was responsible for ensuring the security of missions and the ability of missions to carry out their responsibilities. The Cuban Mission continued to receive 24-hour daily security, and any complaints received immediate attention. Breaches around the security zone of the Mission would not be tolerated. When demonstrators had attempted to breach that zone, they were immediately removed by police.

Regarding the Vienna Convention, he said, "let's not make a mountain out of a molehill". There had been no impairment of the functioning of the Cuban Mission. Cuba's protest was perplexing, particularly in view of the large sign in plain view of the United States office in Havana expressing derogatory views against the United States. His country had not objected because such actions were within the right of individuals to freedom of speech and expression. Similar freedoms were involved in the current situation.

He said the United States Mission had been in consultation with New York City authorities to determine ways in which Cuba's concerns might be addressed. Those consultations were continuing.

Mr. AGATHOCLEOUS (Cyprus), Committee Chairman, noted the statement by the representative of the United States that consultations with the New York City authorities on the matter were still being pursued. He hoped for a positive outcome.

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Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said it appeared from the statement of the representative of the United States as if two issues were under discussion. It was deplorable for the representative to state that his Government could not have the signs removed. Everyone knew that the United States would have taken drastic action if it had been the target. It was regrettable that the United States found itself unable to act in a matter carried out by a terrorist organization. He noted that the pilots license held by the head of the organization had been revoked by the United States federal aviation authorities. The United Nations Headquarters was in New York and not in Havana, and that the Committee's legal obligations could not be extended to cover issues relating to signs outside the United States Interest Section in Havana.

He said his country regarded the signs posted near its Mission as an affront and reserved the right to request the United States to accept in full the consequences resulting from it. It was regrettable, he added, that the Committee found itself unable to fulfil its responsibilities.

Mr. MARRERO (United States) said it was important that the Committee was not swayed by the term "terrorist" used by the representative of Cuba, and that the loose application of the word should not influence its work. It appeared that Cuba had already decided to take the issue to the General Assembly and that nothing said in the Committee could change that.

Mr. RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said his Government had documents showing violations of Cuban airspace in the last two years which could be made available to the Committee. It had been clearly established that the terrorist organization would escalate its activities against Cuba. There were plans for sabotage of economic installations. The solution to the issue regarding the sign was for the United States to discharge its responsibilities.

Mr. AGATHOCLEOUS (Cyprus), Committee Chairman, said the holding of two meetings on the issue by the Committee had provided the host country the opportunity to pursue the matter. There was hope that a solution could be found.

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For information media. Not an official record.