[JURIST] Cuba will sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] in the first quarter of the coming year, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque [official profile, in Spanish] said Monday during an event to mark International Human Rights Day. He also said Cuba would join the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [text], and that the country would begin allowing UN observers to monitor its human rights [VOA report] beginning in 2009. Roque made the announcements at a news conference as competing groups of dissidents and government supporters protested nearby. A representative of the UN in Cuba said the statements were an encouraging sign. AP has more.
Human rights groups estimate that the number of political prisoners in detention has dropped by over 20 percent since acting president Raul Castro assumed duties from Cuban President Fidel Castro [BBC profiles] on July 31, 2006. The Castro government released two dissidents [JURIST report] in August; however, it still denies the existence of political prisoners in Cuba.