The Guardian 20 July, 2005

Detention of Cubans in US illegal

Bradley Klapper

GENEVA: The detention of five Cubans found guilty of espionage in the United States is arbitrary and in violation of international law, according to a UN panel.

The ruling of the UN working group on arbitrary detentions states that the five Cubans — convicted in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military bases and exile groups in Florida — were denied access to the totality of the evidence against them, as were their lawyers.

The panel determined that the trial did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality required to reach the conclusion that the regulations for an impartial trial were observed.

The legal procedure in the case was incompatible with international agreements signed by the United States, which guarantee that any person accused of a crime has the right to make use, with full equality, of all the facilities necessary for preparing his or her defence, said the panel.

The working group concluded that those deficiencies are so grave that they "confer an arbitrary character to the privation of liberty of those five persons".

Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañono, Fernando González and René González have denounced their trial as "evidently political". They are currently serving sentences ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment.

The Five were arrested in September 1998 and held in solitary confinement for 17 months.

Leila Zerrougui, president of the working group, stated that she could not comment on the decision before the time granted to the United States to give its response.

"We adopted a decision and we have sent it to the United States", Zerrougui said. "But we cannot talk about it as part of our procedure."

The ruling of the panel, the fulfilment of which is not obligatory, urges the United States to adopt "the necessary measures to remedy the situation, in line with the principles expressed in the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights".

The case of the Five has attracted international attention, including the creation of groups acting on their behalf in nine US cities and the backing of Ramsey Clark, the former justice secretary, and Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.


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