WASHINGTON – The White House on Tuesday expressed outrage that Cuba has been re-elected to the U.N. Human Rights Commission (search), only three weeks after rounding up dozens of dissidents and sending them to prison.
"This is a setback for the cause of human rights. Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
While the United States was preoccupied with the Iraq war, Cuban leader Fidel Castro (search) arrested 78 dissidents, journalists and librarians and "tried" them for treason, giving them varying prison sentences of as long as 28 years.
The same commission that by acclamation Tuesday allowed Cuba to remain a member, earlier this month voted to investigate the mass arrests. It was treated with resistance.
"The Human Rights Commission wanted to send investigators into Cuba and Cuba said 'no.' And yet, today, Cuba gets re-elected to the Human Rights Commission. It raises troubling issues, and that's why the United States is speaking out about it," Fleischer said.
The Bush administration lobbied against the vote to keep Cuba on the panel, but in the end threw up its hands, suggesting the commission is a lost cause.
"You have to keep in mind that Libya is the chairman of this committee. There are some things that happen at the United Nations that it's very hard for anybody to explain," Fleischer said.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Economic Social Council Sichan Siv (search), who served as the U.S. representative at Tuesday's commission meeting, got up and walked out when it became clear Cuba was going to win the vote.
"It was an outrage for us because we view Cuba as the worst violator of human rights in this hemisphere," he said.
Siv said the arrests aren't the only travesties committed by Castro. Cubans trying to escape Castro's regime have mounted several hijackings recently, including a plane flown to Key West and a ferryboat also headed to Florida. While hijackings are illegal, Castro didn't bother with anything like a trial, Siv said.
"They arrested three hijackers. After one week of incarceration, they shot them — no trial no justice or nothing," he said.
Castro's summary executions surprised and dismayed even his longtime defenders. It also riled longtime critics in the U.S. Congress.
"Allowing Cuba to stay on the Human Rights Commission is like honoring Saddam Hussein with the Nobel Peace Prize," said Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley.
Foley is introducing a congressional resolution calling on the United Nations to reverse its decision.
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.