I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 101, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy is aware, I addressed this matter comprehensively in my reply to Priority Question Number 3 of 8 February 2007 and to subsequent supplementary questions. The case to which he refers in Questions 96, 97 and 101 relates to five Cuban citizens who were convicted in the US in 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder. A panel of three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the 2001 convictions on 9th August 2005 and ordered a retrial based on new evidence. The Miami District Attorney duly filed an appeal against the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Following an appellate hearing on 14 February 2006, a 10-2 decision to uphold the 2001 convictions was issued on 9 August 2006.
It is my understanding that a number of appeals lodged on behalf of the defendants remain under active judicial review within the framework of the US domestic legal system. As I have previously informed the Deputy on several occasions, the Government has no standing in this matter, which is a bilateral consular question between the US and the Cuban authorities and, consequently, I do not intend to raise this matter with the US Government.
With regard to the question of family visits, I am aware from the 2005 Report of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that, as of October 2005, sixty visas had been issued for visits by family members but that visas had not been granted to the wives of two of the convicted men on the stated grounds of US national security. Again, I do not believe that this is a matter on which I have any standing and I do not intend, therefore, to raise it with the US authorities.
As I have made very clear in my replies to the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Questions on the issue of terrorist threats, Ireland, along with our EU partners, condemns all acts of terrorism, regardless of their target or motivation. Terrorism can never be justified by any cause, reason or ideology. It places the lives of innocent people at risk and undermines tolerance, openness and respect for fundamental freedoms in society. However, as I have also previously stated, I am not in a position to comment in any substantive way on the issues raised by the Deputy due to the imprecise nature of the allegations.
As the Deputy is aware, the overriding objective of Ireland and our EU partners in our relations with Cuba is to encourage — and not to enforce by external coercion — a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as is clearly set out in the European Union's 1996 Common Position on Cuba. The European Union believes that critical engagement with the Cuban Government, alongside dialogue with wider Cuban civil society, is the most effective way to promote peaceful change in Cuba.
In June 2003, the European Union took a number of diplomatic steps following large-scale arrests, summary and arbitrary judicial processes, and the severe prison sentences imposed upon 75 dissidents for the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and participation in public affairs, as well as the summary trial and rapid execution of three ferry-boat hijackers in breach of minimum standards for the administration of the death penalty.
In July 2003, the General Affairs and External Relations Council noted a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Cuba. The Council, nonetheless, reaffirmed the validity of the policy of constructive engagement with Cuba, as provided for in the 1996 Common Position, as the basis of EU policy towards that country.
The validity of the 1996 Common Position was most recently reaffirmed by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 June 2006. The European Union has emphasised its willingness to cooperate with Cuba on the basis of a dialogue with the Cuban Government and Cuban civil society, as soon as the Cuban Government shows the political will to engage in a dialogue aiming at tangible results, especially in the field of human rights and political freedom, the restriction of which remains a matter of deep concern. In this regard, I would again urge the Cuban Government to release all prisoners of conscience and to respect internationally acknowledged principles and practices, including in respect of judicial process.