Prosecutorial Ethics / Cuban Law Association, Alberto Méndez Castelló

By Alberto Méndez Castelló

Some days ago, some 400 employees of the General Prosecutor Office of the Republic across the country signed a code of ethics. The notice was published on the front page of the daily Rebel Youth on Saturday, June 9th, under the title “Ethics Are Our Prosecutor”.

According to the article, the code has as its precepts justice, honesty, creativity, humanism, austerity, and professionalism, corresponding to socialist principles.

On receiving the newspaper, a woman didn’t even finish reading yesterday’s news, throwing it in the trash, which constitutes an unusual event: more than inform, the paper the news is printed on has other uses in Cuba, for which is it uneconomic to throw it in a waste basket instead of the toilet.

For such detachment, the woman claimed to have an experience with the law that made her hate everything having to do with judges and prosecutors:

“I can’t forget, and every time I hear them spoken of my stomach turns”, she said.

In Cuba, the prosecutor is the state organ to which the Constitution assigns two fundamental objectives: control and preservation of what we call socialist legality here, and the exercise of punitive action on behalf of the State.

“Due to problems with someone from state security who sued him, the court seized from my husband a TV that was owned by our son. I went to a prosecutor to intercede for the child’s rights, but instead of an advocate for civil rights, what we found in the prosecution was another accuser,” argued the boy’s mother.

According to Article 514 of the Law of Civil Procedure, third parties — this is the right that a third party alleges among other litigants — must be founded on the ownership of the property seized from the debtor or in the right of the claimant of exercising his credit with preference to the creditor.

The same law indicates in Article 521 that the complaint of third parties must present the title on which it is founded, without which it will have no recourse.

Article 48 of the same Law of Civil Procedure makes it clear that it is the prosecutor who represents and defends minors in the defense of their property and rights in cases such as this.

“We delivered the certificate of ownership to where it says that my husband bought the TV and ordered its installation in the name of our son. We brought seven witnesses to the trial and hired two lawyers,” she said.

“The witnesses stated that the purchase of the TV was actually made specifically for the child. Even the director of commerce who signed the ownership certificate testified that the set belonged to the person in whose name the buyer had ordered its installation,” he added.

“All for naught: the prosecutor of ’socialist legality’ presented just one witness; of course, under threat of being forced, if he didn’t present himself to testify, which he did in a second appearance. Imagine the rest of the story … the child lost the TV, there was someone from State Security in the middle”, the mother lamented.

As regards the exercise of public penal action in the name of the State, one also needs a strong stomach to work as a prosecutor in Cuba.

“The precept of Null Crime — this is an elementary principal of Criminal Law, where the alleged deed has to conform exactly to the type of crime prescribed by the law — in this case of the Cuban Penal Code, which has so many marshes that, rather than legal concepts designed to prosecute offenses, they resemble tricks designed to justify what is not sanctioned at any cost”, said a specialist in criminal science.

“Suffice it to mention the much bandied about Article 91 (acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the State) in which several dozen people were convicted in the Group of 75, and, more recently, for which Alan Gross will pay for with 15 years in prison,” said the specialist.

“The article in question does not specify what is the crime for which one can be sentenced from 10 years in prison to the death penalty,” said the lawyer. “It only says, ’He who in the interest of a foreign state commits an act with the aim of undermining the independence of the Cuban State or its territorial integrity.’”

“What deed? Perhaps an armed attack? Oral or written propaganda?”, the jurist asked.

The American Alan Gross is a prisoner in Cuba for bringing communications equipment onto the island, and Albert De Bouchet took his own life in exile in Spain after serving prison time for writing journalistic articles in Cuba.

Cuban prosecutors might have signed a code of ethics, but above all they must know that ethics doesn’t make one moral, in the sense that it is not by knowing a lot about ethics and possessing intellectual training in that respect is one is a person with better civic training.

They must know: a jurist, however academic, can be an individual of bad moral character. In fact, he is if he puts forward as the accused a private citizen of proven integrity, and yet asks that he be condemned because of what the codes say, that is what his masters say, regardless of the unwritten laws of morality.

It is well-known that without morals, no justice can possibly exist, and in Cuba, whoever does not know that morality is questionable.

Translated by: JT

[published in Diario de Cuba on June 20]

Published in Cuban Law Association site: July 9 2012