UN working group denounces imprisonment of Cuban Five
Campaign News | Saturday, 16 July 2005
Treatment "incompatible with human rights covenant"
In an opinion released in late May but only made public in July, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, a group created by the UN Commission on Human Rights, has criticized the treatment of five Cuban men arrested in Miami in 1998 as "arbitrary."
It described the treatment of the five Cuban prisoners as "incompatible with the standards contained in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
The opinion presented as a request to the US government also requested the US "to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation."
According to the investigation of the working group, the five men, Antonio Guerrero Rodríguez, Fernando González Llort, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Ramón Labañino Salazar, and René González Sehwerert were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months during which time their basic civil liberties as detained persons were violated. The US government restricted access to their lawyers and to evidence laid against them, inhibiting their ability to mount an adequate legal defense.
The US government used the cloak of "national security" to keep "evidence" against the Five secret.
Further, before and during the 2001 trials of the five men, the working group concluded, "the climate of bias and prejudice against the accused in Miami persisted and helped to present the accused as guilty from the beginning." Because of this situation, it was "almost impossible" to find an impartial jury, especially for a case related to Cuba.
The human rights working group concluded that the conditions surrounding the arrest, detention and trial of these five men constitute a case of "the deprivation of liberty of these five persons an arbitrary character."
The five men were accused of espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage and were sentenced from 15 years to life in prison.
The mistrial of the Cuban Five has aroused international anger against the US for its double standards related to Cuba. The five men arrived in Miami in 1996 with the specific task of infiltrating and exposing organizations based in that city who have expressed the sole desire of overthrowing the Cuban government.
Many of the groups have actively engaged in activities or have members who have engaged in activities that the US government in other contexts would only describe as terrorist. Members of these organizations have carried out bombings of civilian targets in Cuba and in other countries with Cuban-associated targets, such as a library in Mexico.
The infamous Luis Posada Carriles, who is now being coddled by the Bush administration in Texas, is an admitted terrorist who planned and carried out the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed dozens of civilians. Posada Carriles has close ties with numerous organizations in Miami that the Cuban Five were trying to expose. Alpha 66, Brigada 2506, Brothers to the Rescue, Comandos F4, Cuban-American National Foundation and Omega 7 are the names of just some of these organizations that operate openly on US soil with impunity.
The Five had accomplished quite a bit of work up to their arrest in 1998. In fact, their success ultimately led to their arrest. Through their dangerous work, they compiled an enormous file, which was then transmitted to the Cuban government. In turn, Cuba provided copies of the materials to the FBI and asked for assistance in bringing terrorists to justice.
As a result, the FBI learned the identity of the Cuban Five and, instead of following up with investigations of terrorist organizations, promptly arrested the Five.
CONCLUSION OF THE U.N. WORKING GROUP on ARBITRARY DETENTIONS (HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION)
OPINION No. 19/2005 (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)
Communication: addressed to the Government of the United States of America on 8 April 2004
Concerning: Mr. Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, Mr. Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Mr. Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Mr. Ramon Labanino Salazar and Mr. Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert
From the information received, the Working Group observes the following:
(a) Following their arrest, and notwithstanding the fact that the detainees had been informed of their right to remain silent and had their defense provided by the Government, they were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months, during which communication with their attorneys, and access to evidence and thus, possibilities to a adequate defense were weakened.
(b) As the case was classified as one of national security, access by the detainees to the documents that contained evidence was impaired. The Government has not contested the fact that defense lawyers had very limited access to evidence because of this classification, negatively affecting their ability to present counter evidence, This particular application of the legal provisions of the CIPA, as made in this case and as the
information available to the Working Group reveals, has also undermined the equal balance between the prosecution and the defense,
(c) The jury for the trial was selected following an examination process in which the defense attorneys had the opportunity and availed themselves of the procedural tools to reject potential jurors, and ensured that no
Cuban-Americans served on the jury. Nevertheless, the Government has not denied that even so, the climate of bias and prejudice against the accused in Miami persisted and helped to present the accused as guilty from the beginning. It was not contested by the Government that one year later it admitted that Miami was an unsuitable place for a trial where it proved almost impossible to select an impartial jury in a case linked with Cuba.
The Working Group notes that it arises from the facts and circumstances in which the trial took place and from the nature of the charges and the harsh sentences given to the accused, that the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial, as defined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States of America is a party.
This imbalance, taking into account the severe sentences received by the persons under consideration in this case, is incompatible with the standards contained in Article 14 of the International Covenant en Civil and Political
Rights that guarantee that each person accused of a crime has the right to exercise, in full equality, all the adequate facilities to prepare his defense.
The Working Group concludes that the three elements that were enunciated above, combined together, are of such gravity that they confer
the deprivation of liberty of these five persons an arbitrary character.
In light of the preceding, the Working Group issues the following opinion:
The deprivation of Iiberty of Messrs. Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, Mr. Fernando
Gonzalez Llort, Mr Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Mr. Ramon Labanino Salazar and Mr. Rene Gonzalez Sehweret is arbitrary, being in
contravention of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and corresponds to category III of the applicable categories examined in the cases before the Working Group.
Having issued this opinion, the Working Group requests the Government to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation, in conformity with the principles stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Adopted on 27 May 2005
For more information on the international struggle to free the
--Joel Wendland may be reached at email@example.com.