Last May 27 marked one year since a United Nations Human Rights Commission Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions ruled that the imprisonment of five Cubans, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, was arbitrary and contravened Article 14 of the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights. The Group urged the U.S. government to adopt measures necessary to seek a solution to the situation.
One of the special mechanisms by which the U.N. Human Rights Commission works, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions was established in May of 2005 and comprises experts from Spain, Hungary , Iran, Paraguay and Algeria. Thus, three of the experts came from countries whose governments are U.S. allies.
The Group adopted the measure in response to a petition that the families of the five men made personally in Geneva in 2003, after evaluating arguments brought by both relatives and the U.S. government.
The U.S. government rejected the Working Group’s opinion, once again making a mockery of justice in its application in the case of the Cuban Five.
The men have now been unjustly incarcerated for eight years after an arrest and trial that were based on false accusations.
It’s now been more than 10 months since a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to reverse the sentences of the Five and ordered a new trial, but they remain in prison.
Using a complicated appeals process that is nothing short of derisory, the five innocent men remain behind bars under arduous conditions.
The decision by the Working Group is extremely important because it is the accepted mechanism by which member states of the United Nations evaluate criteria on aspects of international law in relation to such cases.
Upon what was the U.N. group’s decision based? The following is quoted from its opinion relating to the Five:
“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, …
“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 …
” 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.
“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.
” 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.”
This opinion agrees with and confirms the essential arguments of the Cuban Five defense team and the decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that in August reversed their sentences and annulled their trial.
We all know the response of the United States government before this distressing proof of iniquity, which clearly demonstrates its utter lack of respect for law and justice.
ANDRÉS GÓMEZ is a Cuban-American resident in the United States and director of the magazine Areitodigital.