Cubalex, 19 July 2018 — Indira Martínez Borges, 33 and the mother of a two-year-old, will be tried on July 20 in a summary proceeding, charged with the crime of “contempt” for calling an official ‘corrupt’. The official, Anais Rodríguez Cárdena, is with the Provincial Directorate of Housing of the Camagüey municipality, which confiscated Martinez’s home and assigned her another in poor condition, for which she had to pay.
Cubalex is concerned over the incompatibility of these summary trials with the right to a defense. Martínez will be tried without the advice of a lawyer. Only if the court concurs to a trial with a Defender, will it allow the participation of one. Nor does Martinez have the resources to hire a lawyer from the National Organization of Collective Law Firms (ONBC).
Even if the accused can hire a defender, their right to defense would be violated. The legal services contracts of the ONBC are the only ones accepted by the court, a situation that affects the right to freely choose a lawyer.
ONBC lawyers are not independent. They receive influence, pressure and undue interference by the authorities that intervene in the criminal process, which prevents them from acting diligently and without fear, and so they act against the interests of their clients.
In these summary proceedings, the ONBC lawyers do not even attempt to request postponement of the oral hearing, knowing that they have not had time to prepare their defense or access to the investigation file.
On July 17, the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in a press release, expressed its concern over defining criticism of public officials in Cuba as a punishable crime.
The Rapporteurship referred expressly to the cases of Ariel Ruiz, a doctor of Biological Sciences, that of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), and also the case of Martha Sánchez González, member of the Ladies in White. All three were tried and imprisoned for this same crime, which undermines the freedom of thought and expression, and constitutes a mechanism to silence the pluralistic and democratic debate around the management of the government .
The Rapporteurship of the IACHR claims that the crime of contempt lends itself “to abuse, as a measure to silence unpopular ideas and opinions, which restricts a debate that is fundamental for the efficient functioning of democratic institutions.” It notes that in the majority of nations in the Americas the crime of contempt has been eliminated from the criminal legislation.
It calls on the Cuban State to adapt its legal framework to the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression, and reminds the Cuban government that “public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society.”
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in consolidation and development of the democratic system.