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The UN, the US and the Cuban 5

Kidnapping in Miami

by RICARDO ALARCÓN

After years of efforts, without much success, trying to let people know the truth about the five young Cubans unjustly incarcerated in the US for fighting Miami-based terrorism, a surprising light appeared on July 14. It came in a news dispatch by AP from Geneva and, in parallel on the same date, from the BBC news service. A UN panel has declared arbitrary and in violation of international law the detention and trial in Miami of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino and René González.

It was important news on its own merits. Never before has a UN body pronounced itself in such a manner on this matter. And it has been infrequent, to say the least, for such media outlets to even mention the Cuban five.

Apparently some people became nervous in Washington and the big lies machine was put into action.

According to a story that appeared on July 20 in The Miami Herald, based on quotes from an unidentified high official at the State Department, the UN action was "orchestrated" by the Cuban government instead of coming from individual complaints.

The facts are quite different and clearly reflected in the UN document. They are as follows. Adriana Pérez ­ Gerardo’s wife ­ and Olga Salanueva ­ René’s wife – (what the Report refers to as "the source") raised the issue personally with UN officials in Geneva early in the spring of 2004. The UN conveyed that complaint to the US Government (its first communication dated, April 8, 2004) and then went back and forth between the two parties and asking their own questions (the UN’s panel) to both.

In other words, there was a Government involved in the process, only one Government. And that happens to be the United States. That is duly and politely recognized by the UN panel in its report.

In paragraph 2: "The Working Group conveys its appreciation to the Government for having forwarded the requisite information in good time."

In paragraph 4: "The Working Group welcomes the cooperation of the Government".

In paragraph 5: "The Working Group considered this case and decided to request additional information. It has received responses both from the Government and the source".

And in paragraph 24: "The Working Group decided in its fortieth session to address the Government of the United States and the petitioners on three issues that would facilitate the work of the Group: The Working Group has received information from both the Government and the source on these issues."

It was on the basis of these exchanges and their own considerations in a process that lasted more than a year that the UN panel stated in its final decision, adopted on May 27, 2005:

"Following their arrest they were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months, during which communications with their attorneys and access to evidence and thus, possibilities to an adequate defense were weakened."

"The Government has not contested the fact that defense lawyers had very limited access to evidence negatively affecting their ability to present counter evidence."

"The Government has not denied that 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."

On this basis "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", declares that "The deprivation of Iiberty of Messrs. Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, Mr. Fernando González Llort, Mr Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Mr. Ramón Labañino Salazar and Mr. René González Sehweret is arbitrary, being in contravention of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" and consequently "the Working Group requests the Government to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation."

The members of the UN panel perform their duties in a strictly personal capacity and they do not represent any Government. The five members are: Ms. Manuela Carmena Castrillo (Spain), Ms. Leïla Zerrougui (Algeria), Ms. Soledad Villagra (Paraguay), Mr. Tamás Ban (Hungary), and Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hashemi (Iran). There are no Cubans involved in that Group or in the UN Human Rights Secretariat.

The US should answer the specific request it has received since May. It is duty bound "to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation" instead of pretending to ignore the UN Working Group and slandering it. The deprivation of liberty of any human being, when it is arbitrary and contrary to the law, is tantamount to kidnapping. In this case the kidnappers are the US authorities and their victims have been detained under such conditions for almost seven years. It is high time to free the Five.

Ricardo Alarcon Quesada is Cuba’s Vice President and President of its National Assembly.