The Cuban Prosecutor’s Office Denies There Were Forced Disappearances on July 11

Two agents subdue one of the protesters on July 11, in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 5, 2021 — Of the 62 people who have been tried for their participation in the July 11 demonstrations, 53 were sanctioned for public disorder and others for “resistance, contempt, instigation to commit a crime and damage,” according to the official data offered this Wednesday by Joselin Sánchez Hidalgo, Magistrate of the People’s Supreme Court, and Director of Supervision and Attention to the Population, to Cubadebate.

The statement focuses on praising the supposed guarantees of the Cuban judicial system, which the testimonies belie, and makes clear the annoyance that the accusations of “forced disappearances” have generated among the authorities.

According to the official version, those who ended up in court did so for their “aggressive, violent, and damaging” conduct, and the crimes for which they were tried carry penalties of one year in prison, a fine of 300 pesos or both. “In the case of the most violent or serious events that occurred on July 11, they are still under investigation and therefore have not reached the Court,” adds Sánchez Hidalgo.

This official confirmed the difficulties of escaping the weight of the regime’s laws by indicating that only one of all the accused was acquitted. Other details offered by the judge were the appearance in oral trial of 22 of the defendants assisted by a lawyer, and the appeals filed against the sentences, a total of 45 of which 40 have already been assigned a lawyer.

Pointing to presumed recidivism or previous misconduct, the official emphasized that 21 of those sanctioned were on probation or serving “subsidiary” penalties not including imprisonment. “When the investigative actions were carried out, it was determined that they had breached the obligations imposed by the law and that the benefit of the subsidiary sanction was revoked.”

On July 24 (the last time the Supreme Court offered data on processes related to July 11) 59 people had been tried, so the number has risen by only three. The statement spends numerous paragraphs talking about the rights that the law establishes, although it does not mention the discretion with which they are applied.

For example, Sánchez Hidalgo spoke of the right to a lawyer to assist any defendant, as well as the right to provide evidence in their defense, testify, or abstain and appeal the sentence. But the facts and a multitude of testimonies reveal that State Security pressures families to waive these guarantees that exist on paper, even advising them not to seek legal advice with the warning that it may count against them.

“We can assure you that the oral trials held by the court against 62 defendants have been carried out with strict adherence to these guarantees established by the Criminal Procedure Law and also endorsed in the Constitution of the Republic,” the judge claims, without addressing what happens in practice.

In addition to insisting on the right to have a lawyer, which the law grants, he insisted that otherwise the rule provides a public defender for those who wish to have the services of one. But it is rare for this type of defense to confront the authorities.

Dixán Fuentes Guzmán, chief prosecutor of the Directorate of Attention to Citizens of the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Republic (FGR), has also spoken with the official newspaper to reinforce the presumed guarantees of the system. According to his version, all those who have filed a complaint in relation to the arrests related to the July 11 demonstrations will have an answer within the required period.

“This is how our Constitution defines it, since addressing and solving the problems posed by citizens and doing it with quality, also has to do with the essence of the socialism that we build. And there is no efficient socialism if we do not have a group of institutions that protect the rights of the people,” he said.

The prosecutor indicated that the judicial system must work more to avoid errors, but at the same time justified the correct action of the justice system. Between January and July, the FGR served 47,000 people and received more than 9,000 complaints, a fact that, in his opinion, is a sign of the confidence that Cubans have in their institutions. “Nobody asks an institution for something if they don’t trust it,” he defended.

With respect to the July 11 demonstrations, 215 people were processed, of whom 47 filed complaints. The official distinguishes that some of these were requests for information by relatives of the detainees, the most common being about the place to which they were taken after their arrest.

“Is this forced disappearance? No. People didn’t know at first where they were being detained, and the prosecutors have the responsibility of verifying that the Ministry of the Interior has complied with the provisions established by law of communicating immediately to the next of kin the place of detention and the reasons,” he said.

Also, he explained, it is common for families to complain of the inconvenience of the place where the detainee is, the way in which the arrest took place – which very frequently includes violence – and the precautionary measures imposed, in addition to questions about arresting people who were just filming, as was the case of Yoan de la Cruz, who broadcast the first protest of San Antonio de los Baños, among others.

Sánchez said that it is very common for the Prosecutor’s Office to review a sentence and modify it when evidence is provided, and also that minors who have reached the age of 16 can be charged because they are subject to criminal accountability, as provided by law.

Translated by Tomás A.


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