UN rights council deliberates on Cuban 5

Cuba is determined to keep the case of the Cuban Five before the world. Its diplomats were in Geneva, Switzerland, from March 12-30 at the fourth session of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

Facing a plethora of competing claims for the council’s attention, the Cubans failed to gain support for a resolution reaffirming a May 2005 ruling by one of the council’s working groups.

That 2005 ruling instructed the U.S. government to take steps to correct the arbitrary nature of the jailing of five Cuban nationals — Antonio Guerrero, René González, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino — who were arrested by U.S. agents in 1998 while monitoring the activity of right-wing, anti-Cuba terrorists in Miami.

The Five were later sentenced to long prison terms. Their case is being appealed.

In Geneva, Leila Zerrougui, chairperson of the council’s working group on arbitrary detentions, identified his agency as the world’s sole mechanism for consideration of individual complaints.

At an “interactive dialogue” with the panel on March 27, Rodolfo Reyes, speaking for Cuba, pointed out that, far from acting on the 2005 request, the U.S. government has taken new, repressive measures against the Five and their families.

Cuba spokespersons have also said the U.S. government continues to turn a blind eye to criminal elements in Florida who are responsible for many attacks and deaths on the island.

Speaking to UN rapporteur Martin Scheinin, Reyes said, “If you do visit the United States, Cuba requests you check into activities by anti-Cuban terrorist organizations working in Miami.”

Reyes alleged that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, then chief White House counsel, personally intervened with the appeals court before it ruled against the Five in August 2006. Reyes also denounced Washington’s refusal to allow Adriana Perez and Olga Salenueva, wives of prisoners Gerardo Hernández and René González, to visit them in jail.

The next day, at a plenary session, Adriana Perez told the council, “The deprivation of freedom of our relatives for nine years violates their human rights, the prevailing international conventions and treaties and also the U.S. Constitution.”

Earlier, Perez and Salenueva had met in Berne, Switzerland’s capital, with parliamentarians to discuss the case. Later, in Geneva, they conferred with Luis Alfonso de Alba, president of the UN Human Rights Council.

Responding to the comments of Perez and Reyes, U.S. diplomat Velia de Pirro assured the council that the prisoners had benefited from full protection of the U.S. legal system and that, after all, they were unregistered agents of a foreign government who had conspired to commit espionage. And besides, she said, they had admitted to clandestine activities.

She did not mention that the Five were held in solitary confinement for 17 months before their trial or that an appeals court acknowledged that widespread bias existed against the Five in Miami, where the trial was held. She also neglected to note that the Five were exclusively monitoring private, anti-Cuba terrorist groups, and not U.S. installations, personnel or government documents.

“That was a politically motivated trial in a location completely hostile to the accused,” replied Cuban representative Juan Antonio Fernandez. They were “denied access to 80 percent of the documentation used to find them guilty and to regular contacts with the defense attorneys.”

De Pirro took the occasion to defend the U.S. government against rampant anti-U.S. criticism at the session relating to the Bush administration’s practice of “rendition,” in which the CIA has flown prisoners overseas for interrogation, its practice of torture and its illegal detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Speaking for the World Federation of Trade Unions, Osiris Oviedo took up the prisoners’ case before the council on March 29. She emphasized that the prisoners had risked their lives to defend Cuban people against terrorist actions planned and organized from U.S. territory. She noted that 135 members of the European Parliament have signed a request for the European Commission to advocate for them and pressure the U.S. government to allow family visits.

atwhit @ megalink.net