16th Anniversary of the Imprisonment of the Cuban Five
By Ann Wright
I thank the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five for the opportunity to speak on the injustices of the law enforcement, judicial system and media of the United States concerning the pre-trial incarceration, trial, sentencing and the appeals process of the Cuban Five.
I am a 29-year veteran of the U.S. Army and retired as a Colonel. I was also a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq. Since my resignation 11 years ago, I have spoken and written frequently about my deep concern about policies and decisions taken by the United States government.
I, like many others who have served in the United States government, am deeply concerned about the lack of fairness of American law enforcement and judicial systems as it pertains to the Cuban Five. Earlier this year, in June, 2014, at the “5 Days for the Cuban 5” events in Washington, DC, the international audience from countries around the world heard of their concerns about this unfairness from former U.S. government officials –Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General; Larry Wilkerson, Retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; and Wayne Smith, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
I am proud to add my voice to their condemnations of the American prosecutorial and judicial processes and the American penal system.
I first met families of the Cuban Five in 2006 in Havana, Cuba. I had travelled there as a member of a human rights delegation sponsored by CODEPINK: Women for Peace, that went to the gates of the U.S. military base in Guantanamo to protest the torture and inhumane conditions of the prisoners who had been kidnapped, tortured and imprisoned following the events of September 11, 2001, almost three years to the day, the Cuban Five were arrested.
During our trip to Cuba, our delegation talked with the families of the Cuban Five who at that time had been in U.S. prisons for eight years, many of those years in which the U.S. judicial system was deeply influenced by the events of 9/11 and the subsequent curtailment of civil and political rights in the United States for U.S. citizens and extraordinary abridgement and violation of legal rights for non-U.S. citizens.
We know well the history of the decision of the Clinton Administration to prosecute the Cuban Five for their unarmed, non-violent monitoring of Miami-based terrorist organizations in the United States to prevent further attacks against the people of Cuba who have suffered more than 3,478 deaths and 2,099 injuries from terrorist acts from U.S.-based criminals.
We know the story of the Cuban government’s cooperation of providing documents, videos and other evidence to the United states government for the investigation to lead to the prosecution of persons residing in the United states who had committed acts of violence against the Cuban people, including the blowing up of a Cuban airliner that resulted in the deaths of 75 people and the explosion in a nightclub in Cuba that killed many persons.
We know the United States never prosecuted the perpetrators of these crimes and the criminals currently are living in the open in the United States, including Luis Posada Carriles.
In 2008, I and several members of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, went to Miami, found Carriles wife’s home and his presence in the home as confirmed by a housing complex gardener and went to the Miami FBI office and reported that we have found the location of a dangerous criminal. We put a large banner with Carriles’ photo and the words “Criminal” in the back of a truck and went drove around Miami with the banner.
Then we had a press conference in Miami across the street from the Versailles restaurant, a hang-out for right wing Cubans, announcing that we had located Carriles and that the police should arrest him. We were attacked with baseball bats.
We know the Bush administration paid reporters to write negative stories about the Cuban Five during their trial in Miami, Florida, jeopardizing the fairness of the trial. We know that in August 2005, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned all of the convictions on the grounds that the Five had not received a fair trial in Miami and that one year later, in August 2006, in spite of the strong disagreement voiced by two of the three judges who made up the original panel, the full 12-member Court of Appeals revoked the decision of the three judges.
We know the Obama administration’s Solicitor General, now a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan, argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should not grant a hearing on the case of the Cuban Five.
We know that many international figures including 10 Nobel laureates, among them East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu, Jose Saramago, Wole Soyinka, Zhores Alferov, Nadine Gordimer, Gunter Grass, Dario Fo and Mairead Maguire, as well as the Mexican Senate, the National Assembly of Panama, and Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland (1992-1997) and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and UNESCO General Director Federico Mayor, among others, signed the amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court.
They were joined by hundreds of parliamentarians from around the world. Among them were 75 members of the European Parliament, including two ex-presidents and three current vice-presidents of this legislature. Also represented were numerous legal and human rights associations from different countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America, as well as international personalities and legal and academic organizations in the United States.
We know that in 2005, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, concluded that, based on the facts and the circumstances in which the trial was held, the nature of the charges and the severity of the convictions, the imprisonment of the Five violated Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Liberties, to which the United States is a signatory.
We know that this was the first time the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had denounced a conviction in a case in the United States because of the violations committed during the legal process. Despite the appeals from the international community and the United Nations, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of the Cuban Five.
We know that many persons convicted of being agents for a foreign government and for espionage against the United States and of providing classified U.S. government documents to the State of Israel, China and Taiwan have received much lighter sentences than the Cuban Five.
We know that two of the Cuban Five, Rene Gonzalez and Hernando Gonzalez have finally been released after serving their sentences. We know that three of the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero, still remain in U.S. maximum security prisons facing decades more of imprisonment.
What We Don’t Know
What we don’t know is how long the United States government will continue its 50-year campaign against the government and people of Cuba, to include using its judicial system to violate the human and civil rights of those who attempt to prevent further criminal attacks coming from the United States on their own citizens.
What we don’t know, is when the tipping point will come through citizen activism, that at long last, a U.S. political administration will be willing to challenge the stranglehold the right wing Cuban lobby in Miami has on American politics to ultimately correct the injustices the Cuban Five have suffered.
But, we do know that, despite its lofty pronouncements of protection of human rights around the world, the United States government seldom holds itself accountable for its well-known abuses.
Without international and domestic education and pressure, such as this forum tonight and other important conferences of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, to hold the United States government accountable for its actions, accountability will not happen in these sensitive political cases.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to add my voice calling for justice for the Cuban Five and release of the remaining three victims of U.S. injustice– Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino and Antonio Guerrero.