Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the Mexican government's expulsion on October 4 of a Cuban who had sought political asylum in Mexico. The man, Pedro Riera Escalante, may well be detained, summarily tried, and face severe punishment in Cuba--including the possible application of the death penalty--the group said. Under such conditions, his return to the island violated the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which Mexico ratified just this year.

Human Rights Watch also criticized the government's justification for the expulsion. Mexican officials said they sent Riera back because he had failed to follow proper procedure for requesting asylum, even though he had spoken to Mexico's Foreign Ministry and intelligence personnel within the Government Ministry.

"Mexico's claim that Mr. Riera had legal representation is entirely spurious," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, "Even if true, his ‘representatives' would have been from the very government he was fleeing—Cuba."

The human rights organization called on Mexico to take whatever diplomatic steps are necessary to ensure Mr. Riera's safety and freedom.