By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida
One of the fundamental elements required for a credible trial is PUBLIC.
While not synonymous with total transparency, a public trial allows us to be informed about it, as the events take place before our eyes and actions of the court are exposed to the severe scrutiny of those who are watching. Especially when it comes to judicial proceedings that, no doubt, feature in the nation’s history and in the personal history of its players.
When the trial is public and allows any interested party to attend, it’s difficult for things to happen that are not observed and so, to undermine justice.
Thus the importance for participants on both sides.
The trial for the event that cost the life of the winner of the Sakharov Human Rights Prize, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas — promoter and executor of the already historical Varela Project — which was held against the Spaniard Ángel Francisco Carromero Barrios, the person who was driving the vehicle in which Payá was traveling with his collaborator. Harold Cepero and a Swedish citizen, was held in secret.
This event sparked, from the beginning, a series of controversial opinions because the Cuban authorities always considered it an accident and a great many of the government’s opponents did not share this opinion.
They should have acted, then, in ways that would not allow any doubt about this troublesome issue, where it was clear that we were in the presence of an unfortunate accident. Such a practice could only be achieved by strict adherence to the provisions of these cases.
Thus, in the Criminal Procedure Act (LPP), Article 305, we read:
The trial is public unless reasons of state security, morality, public order or the respect due to the person aggrieved by the offense or their relatives suggest it should be held behind closed doors.
The trial was held behind closed doors with a large police presence around the court. If indeed the authorities did not consider what happened as a mere traffic accident, why did not declare their privacy for reasons of state security which is much closer to the real facts and why did they publish that the trial would be public?
Later in the same article 305 mentioned above, we read:
The only people who will attend the sessions of closed door trails are the parties, their representatives, advocates, support staff and people that the President or the Court authorize.
But, inconceivably, they did not allow the children of the deceased, Payá Sardinas, access to the courtroom of the Tribunal in clear contrast to what we just read in Art. 305 of the LPP. Would these two young people have been able to cause public disorder in the courtroom? I doubt it.
Finally, the article we are discussing closes:
The Court can make this decision before the trial, or any state thereof, or upon its own motion, stating on the record the reasons to support that decision.
We already have experienced how simple administrative processes trials are held in secret and with a police deployment without any explanation for it.
In any event, I would like to read in the minutes of the Court the reasons for acting the way they did in this case. But I doubt that’s possible with everything we’re seeing … and despite what is reported at international events about our justice system.
October 12 2012