Yudy Castro Morales | firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
After the riots that took place last July 11 and 12, as part of the political-communicational operation encouraged and paid for by the US government against Cuba, supposed lists of missing persons have begun to circulate on the Internet.
But, are there really missing persons in the country? Are such lists real? What is the procedure for the detention of a person? What limits are there to the actions of the authorities?
In answering these questions, during an appearance this Tuesday on the program Hacemos Cuba, Colonel Victor Alvarez Valle, second chief of the Specialized Body of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), categorically assured that in Cuba there are no missing persons, neither of the processes referred to the recent disorders, nor of any other that has been carried out.
“We have as a principle, in the Revolution, and it is also what characterizes the actions of the authorities, the right to life, to freedom, the right to the preservation and security of people,” said the colonel, while informing that Cuba is a signatory of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
This position, he said, was also recognized in the Constitution approved by the majority of Cubans and, although in our legal system it is not characterized as a crime, there is a group of figures that cover and punish those who commit these actions, in the event that the occurrence of an enforced disappearance is proven.
Furthermore, he added, “there is no secret establishment for the processing of persons who, for any reason, or for the commission of crimes, are taken to one of the dependencies of MININT”.
Regarding the process of detention of a citizen, José Luis Reyes Blanco, head of the Department of Supervision of the Directorate of Criminal Proceedings, of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR), explained that “the records of this process, the detention record that is signed by the person involved, the information on the detainee and the presence of the Prosecutor’s Office throughout the criminal process from the beginning, contribute to control the investigation and allow us to ensure that in our country after 1959 there have never been missing persons”. Evidently, if there were events of this nature in the country, the number of denunciations in the Prosecutor’s Office, through all its channels of attention to the citizens, would be considerable.
However, commented Reyes Blanco, in the year 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the Prosecutor’s Office attended more than 129,000 people throughout the country; during the first semester of this year, the attention exceeded 49,000 and, as of July 12, for events associated to the riots, 63 people have addressed to this organ, mostly through face-to-face channels.
“But none of these complaints or claims have been related to disappearances”, he stressed, but to arrests, that is to say, in search of certain information, which they have received in the places to which the interested parties have gone.
Today, he commented, the Prosecutor’s Office is investigating five claims related to general non-conformities in the process, but no case is pending to define the place where the person is located. There is information and, more importantly, the family knows it”.
In this sense, Colonel Alvarez Valle pointed out that when a person is taken to a police unit, the first thing that is done is to register him/her in a logbook, manually, and the arrest record is drawn up. Therefore, the person knows why they are being taken to the station.
Then, he continued, there follows a process that can take place in the first 24 hours, which contemplates his first statement, and the measures that, depending on the crime, can be imposed.
“In the first 24 hours, the family generally knows where the person is because, in addition, MININT has a system of attention and information to the population, automated and interlinked among all units, where each of the detained persons is recorded.
“In recent cases, all the families know where their detainees are, they have gone to the places, they have delivered belongings with personal hygiene materials or specific medicines; in other words, the information on the whereabouts of the people is established and auditable by the control bodies of the Prosecutor’s Office”, he explained.
Subsequently, he also referred to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which Cuba is a party and was reviewed in 2017.
As applied in the country, Article 17, specifically, establishes, among other elements, that:
No one shall be secretly detained.
Without prejudice to other international obligations of the State party regarding deprivation of liberty, each State party, in its legislation:
Shall establish the conditions under which orders of deprivation of liberty may be issued.
Determine the authorities empowered to order deprivation of liberty.
Guarantee that any person deprived of liberty shall be held only in officially recognized and controlled places of deprivation of liberty.
Guarantee that any person deprived of liberty shall be authorized to communicate with and be visited by his family, a lawyer or any other person of his choice, subject only to the conditions established by law, and in the case of a foreigner, to communicate with his consular authorities, in accordance with applicable international law.
It shall guarantee the access of any competent authority and institution empowered by law to places of deprivation of liberty, if necessary with the prior authorization of judicial authority.
For his part, the prosecutor clarified that all persons detained after the events of July 11 are able to appoint a lawyer, that some do not have one is up to the choice of each individual.
And to totally deny the mentioned lists, at another moment of the program, communication was established with one of the alleged missing persons, who also spoke of other colleagues who swell the records circulated on the Internet and who are in perfect condition.
The Second Chief of the Specialized Body of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation of MININT reiterated that these lists lose credibility due to the lack of data, and because it has been proven that many of those registered therein have never been arrested or even interviewed by the authorities.
Reyes Blanco commented that, among the detainees, a group has already been released because it has been confirmed that they have had no criminal participation, others are under a non-detaining precautionary measure, and there are defendants in the preparatory phase, with a precautionary measure of provisional imprisonment.
TORTURE WILL NEVER BE A PRACTICE OF THE CUBAN AUTHORITIES.
Another matrix that has been tried to be positioned in the social networks puts the dart in the occurrence of torture with those involved in the destabilizing actions.
Colonel Alvarez Valle said, “just like forced disappearances, torture is not a practice in Cuba. The history of the Revolution proves it, and it is not and will not be the practice of the combatants of the Ministry of the Interior to use force against those being prosecuted”. He also said that Cuba is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
José Luis Reyes detailed that, after the riots, the presence of prosecutors in the units has increased, because it is in the interest of hearing the opinion of the detainees, and this is a favorable scenario for dialogue and to convey any concerns or complaints.
The broadcast of Hacemos Cuba also called attention to a complaint of a young man who has escalated in recent hours in social networks, referring to acts of violence committed against him, after being detained after the riots.
This person, the colonel pointed out, is subject to a precautionary measure of house arrest for a previous process, which implies requirements that he has to comply with; however, he was in the street, outside the vicinity of his home, in the middle of the disturbances of the order, which breaks the provisions, of which he was informed.
Prosecutor Reyes Blanco added that, among the complaints in progress at the Prosecutor’s Office, there is that of this young man, since his father presented himself at the said body. All the data were taken and the pertinent inquiries and investigations will be carried out, with total transparency.
Should any irregularity arise, said the colonel, the circumstances in which the facts occurred would be clarified and the corresponding measures would be taken, either in the disciplinary order, if he were a combatant, or in the criminal order if the conduct were to be in violation of the law.
Therefore, arguments were sufficiently clear that in Cuba there are no disappeared or tortured persons, and, if any irregularity occurred or had occurred in the actions of the Ministry of the Interior or the Prosecutor’s Office, it will be investigated, the results will be made known and, if violations are found, measures will be taken to allow the restitution of legality.
By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
“Despite the impressive legal and institutional framework established to prevent it, the practice of torture remains widely tolerated or even used by governments, and there is still impunity for its perpetrators”.
So it was admitted by the United Nations Secretary General in the appeal issued every year by this organization ever since December 12, 1997, when its General Assembly passed Resolution 52/149 proclaiming June 26 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
For a long time, the widespread, standard use of cruel and repressive methods, and especially the torture of prisoners, was held to be indigenous to prisons and military garrisons in Latin America during the second half of the 20th century.
Nowadays, however, there’s no doubt about the origin of actions and concepts that divorced the Latin American peoples from their soldiers and turned torture into a daily practice against the population.
When news –including pictures– on torture and other forms of inhuman treatment used by the U.S. army against prisoners in Iraqi jails and the detention center they illegally keep in areas of Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, old reports pointing at the School of the Americas (SOA), set up in Panama in 1946, began to take full credit.
Around those days, in 1947, the U.S. government also set in motion its gloomy, official criminal organization called Central Intelligence Agency, bound to write, in the region and the world over, the dirtiest chapters of abuse, barbarism and terror humanity has ever known.
Up until 1963, the SOA was named Latin American Training Center – Ground Division, reportedly designed to train acting military leaders and qualify new ones needed by armies throughout the continent.
After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, it took on more specific responsibilities as a result of the failure in the island of the center’s highly favored strategies. Now it would be used to train cadre called to stop the Cuban example from spreading across Latin America.
The space for “representative democracy” was considerably curtailed while military dictatorships mushroomed all over the region. Democratic traditions like Chile’s and Uruguay’s were no more respected than the size of mega-nations like Argentina and Brazil.
The SOA played a significant role as part of this ‘firm hand’ policy and its dreariest expression, the ‘Operation Condor’, for which it trained leaders, organized death squads to oppose insurgency, and designed interrogation and torture techniques.
Various dictators, chiefs of police and notorious torturers who played a decisive part in Operation Condor came from the SOA, many of whose professors and advisors took part in the dirty war against Latin America.
In 1984, following the Torrijos-Carter agreements and the signature of the Treaty on the Panama Canal, the SOA was relocated in Fort Benning, in Columbus, Georgia.
In 2001, owing to the huge wave of reports that the U.S. Congress had been receiving since 1999 to denounce the content of the torture training manuals that it used to train its students, the SOA’s request to operate was turned down.
The Pentagon “obidiently” renamed the school Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and made some cosmetic changes to conceal the most serious human rights violations that were a commonplace occurrence in its premises.
Whether cases of torture in secret prisons should be treated as confidential information is now under debate in the U.S., and in the meantime the world is witnessing in astonishment how Richard Cheney, who was vice president until a few months ago, openly defends the use of torture against prisoners and even demands more publicity for the ways such inhuman treatment redounds for the benefit of his country in order to gain more popular acceptance of that torment.
Beyond denunciations and protests about this practice, the world should also worry about saving another victim of torture: the American people, now faced with the morally degrading fact that so many of their young soldiers are being forced to inflict suffering on other human beings or trained for that purpose.
Por Manuel E. Yepe