AFTER years of effort, without much success, to get the truth out about the five young Cubans illegally imprisoned in the United States for combating Miami-based terrorism, a surprising ray of hope appeared on July 14. An AP dispatch datelined Geneva arrived, and in parallel, another one from the BBC on the same day. A United Nations panel had declared as arbitrary and in violation of international law the arrest and trial in Miami of Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and René González.
It was important news in itself. Never before had a United Nations agency made such a declaration about this affair. And such agencies had barely mentioned — to say the least — anything about the five Cuban.
Apparently, some individuals became nervous in Washington, and the big lie machine went into action.
According to the story that appeared on July 20 in The Miami Herald, based on quotes from an unidentified high-ranking Department of State official, the United Nations action was "orchestrated" by the Cuban government instead of stemming from an individual complaint.
The facts are quite different, which is clearly reflected in the UN document. Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo, and Olga Salanueva, wife of René (whom the report identifies as the "source") personally brought the issue before UN officials in Geneva in the early spring of 2004.
The United Nations passed on that complaint to the United States government (its first communication is dated April 8, 2004) and afterwards, it communicated on several occasions with both parties, formulating its own questions as well.
In other words, there was a government involved in the process — just one government. And coincidentally, it turns out to be that of the United States. This is correctly and appropriately acknowledged by the UN panel in its report.
In paragraph 2: The Working Group sends its thanks to the Government for having remitted the required information on time."
In paragraph 4: The Working Group welcomes the Government’s cooperation."
In paragraph 5: The Working Group considered this case … and decided … to request additional information. The same has received responses both from the Government and from the source."
And in paragraph 24: The Working Group decided in its 40th session to address the United States government and the plaintiffs about the three issues that would facilitate the Group’s work: … The Working Group has received information both from the Government and the source on these issues.
It was on the basis of these exchanges and its own considerations in a process that lasted more than one year, that the UN panel expressed its final decision, adopted on May 27, 2005.
"After the arrest … they were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months, during which time communication 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 the evidence … which negatively affected the [defense’s] 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 aljost 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 on the deprivation of liberty of these five persons an arbitrary character," and 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 that, in consequence, "the Working Group requests the Government to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation."
The members of the United Nations panel are carrying out their duty strictly in a strictly personal capacity, and do not represent any government. The five members are: Mrs. Manuela Carmena Castrillo (Spain); Mrs. Leila Zerrougui (Algeria); Mrs. Soledad Villagra (Paraguay); Mr. Tamás Ban (Hungary), and Mr. Seyed Mohammad Hashemi (Iran). Not a single Cuba is involved in this Group, nor in the Human Rights Secretariat of the United Nations.
The United States should respond to the specific request that was made back in May. It is morally obliged to "adopt the necessary measures to remedy this situation" instead of trying to ignore the United Nations Working Group and slandering it. The deprivation of freedom of any human being, when it is arbitrary and contrary to law, is the equivalent of kidnapping. In this case, the kidnappers are the United States authorities. And their victims have been detained under such conditions for aljost seven years. The moment has come to free the Five.