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Retired Col. Ann Wright spent 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. She was a diplomat in the State Department for 16 years, serving in the U.S. embassies of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. She resigned in 2003 in protest of the then-impending invasion of Iraq. In 2009, she co-authored, Dissent, Voices of Conscience.
October 5, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
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 eleven years ago, I have spoken and written frequently about my deep concern about policies and decisions taken by the United States government.
I am writing to you with my concerns about the cases of the Cuban Five. I suspect you have been briefed on the history of the decision of the Clinton Administration to prosecute the five Cuban citizens who were residing in the United States for their unarmed, non-violent monitoring of Miami-based terrorist organizations 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.
I would like to bring to your attention that in 2005, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, concluded that, based on the facts and the circumstances in which their trial was held, the nature of the charges and the severity of the convictions, the imprisonment of the Cuban Five violated Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Liberties, to which the United States is a signatory. 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.
A three judge panel at the Appellate level overturned the conviction of the Cuban Five. I strongly believe that due to intense political pressure from the powerful Cuban community in Miami, a full panel of the Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction.
Ten of your fellow Nobel laureates and other international notables, 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, 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 asking a review of the decision of the Court of Appeals.
They were joined by hundreds of parliamentarians from around the world, including the Mexican Senate, the National Assembly of Panama. 75 members of the European Parliament, including two ex-presidents and three current vice-presidents of this legislature have signed petitions asking for the US Supreme Court to take the case. Numerous legal and human rights associations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, as well as international personalities and legal and academic organizations in the United States have signed these documents.
As you probably 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 and appellate 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.
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 for the Cuban Five. 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 have publicly expressed their concerns, most recently to an international audience at the event “5 Days for the Cuban Five” in Washington, DC in June, 2014.
I am proud to add my voice as a retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and a former U.S. diplomat to their statements of concerns of the American prosecutorial and judicial processes and the American penal system concerning the Cuban Five.
Two of the Cuban Five, René González and Fernando González, have finally been released after serving their sentences. Three of the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero, still remain in U.S. maximum security prisons facing decades more of imprisonment.
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 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. Hearing the stories of the challenge of visiting their family members in U.S. prisons caused by purposeful United States government bureaucratic measures intended to make visiting as difficult as possible, was hard to hear as a defender of human rights.
At the time of our 2006 trip to Cuba, the Cuban Five had been in U.S. prisons for eight years. During those years 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.
I hope that your administration, now that there are only two years left in your tenure as President, will be willing to challenge the strangle-hold the right wing Cuban lobby in Miami has on American politics to ultimately correct the injustices the Cuban Five have suffered and give a Presidential pardon to the remaining three members of the Cuban Five who are in prison.
U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, Retired and former U.S. diplomat