No torture in Cuba, no forced disappearances
Yudy Castro Morales | email@example.com
After the disturbances that took place last July 11 and 12, as part of a political and communicational operation encouraged and paid for by the U.S. government to discredit Cuba, lists of allegedly missing persons began to circulate on the Internet.
Are there, in fact, disappeared persons in the country? Are such lists real? What is the procedure for the detention of a suspect in Cuba? What legal limits govern the action of authorities?
In answering these questions, during an appearance July 20 on the Cuban television program Hacemos Cuba, Colonel Victor Alvarez Valle, second in command of the specialized corps of the Ministry of the Interior’s Criminal Investigation Directorate, stated categorically that there are no disappeared persons in Cuba, no one involved in processes underway related to the recent disorders, or in any other.
“Within the Revolution, we have as principles our people’s right to life, to freedom, the right to protection and security, which also characterize the action of our authorities,” the colonel said, noting, as well, that Cuba is a signatory of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
This position, he said, is also recognized in the Constitution approved by the majority of Cubans and, although in our legal system it is not specifically established as a crime, there are a number of statutes that cover and punish those who commit such acts, in the event that the occurrence of an enforced disappearance is proven.
Moreover, he added, “There is no secrecy in the processing of persons taken into custody at a Ministry facility, for any reason, for committing any crime.”
Regarding the procedure followed in detaining a citizen, José Luis Reyes Blanco, head of the Supervision Department of the Attorney General’s Directorate of Criminal Proceedings, explained, “The records of this process, the detention record that is signed by the person involved, information on the detainee and the presence of the Attorney General’s Office throughout the criminal process, from the beginning, contribute to controlling the investigation and allow us to ensure that in our country, since 1959, there have been no disappeared persons.”
Obviously, if events of this nature were taking place, the number of complaints submitted to the Attorney General’s Office, through its citizen attention channels, would be significant.
Reyes, on the contrary, reported that in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the office responded to more than 129,000 inquiries across the country; during the first semester of this year, the figure exceeded 49,000 and, for the period July 12-20, following the disturbances, 63 individuals have contacted the Attorney General’s Office, mostly through face-to-face channels.
“None of these complaints or claims were related to disappearances,” he reported, with most concerning arrests, that is, seeking specific information, which the interested parties received at the sites where the inquiry was made, Reyes stated.
At this time, he noted, the Attorney General’s Office is investigating five complaints related to the detention process, but there are no pending cases involving the location of a person. “The information is available and, more importantly, the family knows it,” he emphasized.
In this context, Colonel Alvarez Valle pointed out that when a person is taken to a police station, the first step is to register him or her in a log book, manually, and the arrest record is completed, so the person knows why he or she was taken into custody.
Next, he explained, the process continues and the first 24 hours may include the suspect’s first statement, and measures that can be imposed are determined, depending on the crime involved.
“In the first 24 hours, the family generally knows where the person is, since the Ministry additionally has a system of attention and information to the population, which is automated and links all stations, where all detentions are recorded.
“In the recent cases, all families know where their detainees are; they have gone to these sites, they have delivered belongings with personal hygiene products and individual medications; in other words, the information on the whereabouts of the person is established and auditable by supervisory bodies within the Attorney General’s Office,” he detailed.
He then referred to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which Cuba is a party and, as such, was reviewed for compliance in 2017.
As applied in the country, Article 17, specifically, establishes, among other elements, that no one shall be detained secretly, and that, without prejudice to other international obligations of the state party regarding incarceration, each state party, in its legislation shall:
-Establish the conditions under which orders of arrest may be issued.
-Determine the authorities empowered to order incarceration.
-Ensure that any person incarcerated shall be held only in officially recognized and supervised locations established for this purpose.
-Guarantee that any person incarcerated shall be authorized to communicate with and be visited by his or her family, a lawyer or any other person of his or her choice, subject only to the conditions established by law, and in the case of a foreigner, communication with consular authorities is guaranteed, in accordance with applicable international law.
-Guarantee access by any competent authority or institution empowered by law to arrest citizens, if necessary with the prior authorization of a judicial body.
Reyes clarified that all persons detained during or following the July 11 events have access to a lawyer; although some have chosen not to avail themselves of legal services.
And to establish the absolute falsity of the aforementioned lists, at another moment during the television program, communication was established with one of the allegedly missing persons, who mentioned other colleagues at his workplace, as well, all in perfect condition and surprised to see their names circulating on the Internet.
The Ministry of the Interior criminal investigation expert reiterated that these lists have no credibility given the limited information they contain, and since it has been proven that many of those listed were never arrested or even interviewed by authorities.
Reyes added that some detained suspects have been released, after determining that they had no criminal participation in the events. Others are under precautionary house arrest, pending further investigation, and another group of defendants, in the pre-trial preparatory phase, are provisionally imprisoned.
TORTURE WILL NEVER BE A PRACTICE USED BY CUBAN AUTHORITIES
Another element that has been maliciously positioned on social networks involves allegations that individuals involved in the destabilizing events have been subjected to torture.
Regarding this issue, Colonel Alvarez Valle stated, “Just like forced disappearances, torture is not a practice in Cuba. The history of the Revolution demonstrates this; it is not and will not be a practice of the Ministry of the Interior’s combatants to use force against those being prosecuted,” adding that Cuba is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
José Luis Reyes explained that, following the disturbances, the presence of attorneys in police stations was increased, since being aware of the detainees’ opinions is of interest, and the station provides a propitious opportunity to dialogue and note any concerns or complaints.
Participants in the Hacemos Cuba program also referred to complaints by a young man regarding alleged acts of violence committed against him, after being arrested during the disturbances, which have drawn attention on social networks.
Colonel Alvarez reported that, as a result of charges previously filed against him, this person was under house arrest, which involves restrictions he was obliged to comply with. July 11, he was in the street, at some distance from his home, in the midst of the disturbances, in violation of the provisions of his house arrest, of which he was fully informed.
Reyes added that the case of this young man is among the claims under consideration by the Attorney General’s staff, and that his father has visited the office. All the information he offered was recorded and the pertinent verifications and investigations will be carried out with total transparency.
Should any irregularity become evident, the Colonel stated, the circumstances in which the events occurred will be clarified and the corresponding measures adopted, on the disciplinary order, if the officer involved committed a mistake, or in criminal court if his conduct could indicate a violation of the law.
The facts and arguments presented made sufficiently clear that in Cuba there are no disappeared or tortured persons, and, if any irregularity occurs or has occurred in the work of the Ministry of the Interior or the Attorney General’s Office, it will be investigated, the findings will be made public and, if the law was violated, measures will be taken to ensure the restitution of legality.