INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its condemnation of
the execution by the State of Cuba of Lorenzo Lorenzo Enrique Copello
Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García y Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac
who were accused and condemned as the persons responsible for the
kidnapping of a boat in the Havana Bay, in which the passengers were taken
as hostages. This act took
place in the early morning hours of 11 April 2003.
executed persons had been tried in the Court of Crimes Against State,
Popular Court, Havana City (Sala de los Delitos contra la Seguridad del
Estado del Tribunal Popular de Ciudad de La Habana). The Court convened a
summary trial procedure under the articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal
Procedure Law. The process began on 5 April and was concluded by 8 April.
The Court condemned the three persons for the crimes of planned terrorism
as provided for in Law 93, Against Acts of Terrorism of 24 December 2001.
The three condemned appealed to the Popular Supreme Court (Tribunal
Supremo Popular). According to the official information, the Supreme
Court passed a new judgment in which the previous sentence was ratified.
The maximum penalty sentences were officially submitted to the
State Council (Consejo de Estado)
for their consideration, and they held they were, “absolutely justified
and the judges decisions were in strict compliance (accordance) with the
laws”. The Council, according to the official release, analyzed the
seriousness of the facts and the potential dangers the condemned persons
implied for the life of innocent persons and for the country’s security.
its recent report on Terrorism and Human Rights, the Commission showed
that the imposition of the death penalty is only valid pursuant to a final
judgement rendered by a competent court and in accordance with a law
establishing such punishment, enacted prior to the commission of the
crime. The imposition of this penalty is subject to strict procedural
requirements and a rigorous control of the minimum guarantees of the right
to a fair trial, which are fundamental. These requirements include, among
others, the presumption of innocence, the
right not to be convicted of an offense except on the basis of individual
penal responsibility and
the right to be judged by a competent, independent and impartial court in
accordance with applicable international law previously established by
law. They also include the following procedural guarantees for the accused
of crimes that carry the death penalty:
the right of prior notification in detail of the charges against
them; the right to adequate time and means for the preparation of their
defense; the right to examine witnesses who testify against them; the
right to obtain the appearance and examine their witnesses under the same
conditions as those witnesses against them; the right to counsel, after
the conviction, about the legal proceedings, or other matters including
filing deadlines and the right to an appeal before a superior court.
the opinion of the IACHR, the summary character that followed the
judgement against the persons and which concluded with the imposition of
the death penalty did not guarantee any of the above-mentioned
requirements of due process. As
a result, their execution is converted into the arbitrary deprivation of
The IACHR is the principal organ of the Organization of the
American States (OAS) with the mandate to promote and protect the
observance of human rights in the Hemisphere and whose attributions are
derived from, among others, the OAS Charter. Resolution VI of the Eighth
Consultation Meeting of 1959 excluded the Government of Cuba, not the
State, from participating in the OAS.
As a result, the Commission continues monitoring the human rights
situation in Cuba. The Cuban State is obligated internationally to respect
and guarantee the rights emanated in the American Declaration of the
Rights and Duties of Man.
D.C., 16 April 2003