Ex-Cuban prosecutor's role in rights panel criticized
That is a travesty, say three human rights groups heading to Geneva land this week to attend the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights' annual spring review of government abuses against people around the globe.
``He is part of the Cuban repressive apparatus, and he dares appear at an international human rights forum, said Ricardo Bofill, a Miami human rights activist who flew to Switzerland Tuesday.
Little new is expected from the UNHCHR debate this year on Cuba, condemned each of the last seven years for maintaining a one-party tyranny and jailing or harassing those who protest, even if peacefully.
Canada quietly tried last month to broker a compromise between Cuba and Washington, which leads the annual charge to rebuke Havana, said officials involved in the preparations for the Geneva meeting.
Ottawa's deal: Let the UNHCHR open an office in Havana, and the UNHCHR stops appointing a Special Reporter tasked exclusively with watching Cuba -- an opprobrious measure usually reserved for the most brutal governments.
President Fidel Castro's government rejected the offer, the official said. Cuba has never allowed the Special Reporter, Swedish diplomat Carl Groth, to enter Cuba to investigate complaints first-hand.
Some of the European nations that traditionally side with Washington at UNHCHR debates on Cuba may be tempted this year to ease off in response to the loosening of curbs on the Cuban Catholic Church for Pope John Paul II's visit in January, the officials added.
But U.S. diplomats in Geneva are insisting that democratic nations must continue supporting the Cuban people, and expect to win yet another condemnation of Cuba and a one-year appointment of a Special Reporter.
Less likely to win, but liable to generate some heat in the usually somber halls of the U.N.'s Geneva headquarters, is a demand by independent human rights groups for a U.N. investigation of Carlos Amat's background.
Leading the attacks on Amat are the Frankfurt-based International Society for Human Rights, Bofill's Cuban Committee for Human Rights and the Dutch chapter of Pax Christi, a Catholic human rights advocacy group.
``Carlos Amat was the prosecutor in at least 150 [trials] as a result of which at least 171 Cuban citizens were sent before firing squads without procedural guarantees, said Bofill.
Amat could not be reached for comment, but a man who answered the phone at the Cuban embassy in Geneva's press section said the mission was aware of the ``lies being thrown about.
One case in which Amat sought but failed to get death sentences: the 1968 trial of Bofill and 35 others, all then pro-Moscow communists, accused of conspiring against Castro's brand of communism. Bofill received a 12-year prison term.
Most of Amat's death-sentence cases were in the 1960s and 1970s, when he was chief prosecutor of Revolutionary Tribunal No. 1 in Havana, where top counter-revolutionary defendants appeared for brief ``summary war trials (consejos de guerra sumarisimos) before going to El Paredon -- the wall for firing-squad executions.
But Amat also was the prosecutor in a more recent and notorious case, the ultra-swift ``trial and execution of three brothers who sought asylum in the Vatican embassy in Havana, a mansion officially known as the Nunciatura.
The incident happened a few months after the Mariel boatlift, and the government apparently was in no mood for a repeat of scenes like the mass occupation of the Peruvian embassy, which had helped spark the crisis.
Three Garcia Marin brothers -- Ventura, 19, Cipriano, 21, and Eugenio, 25, plus two other men and three women burst into the Nunciatura's grounds around noon on Dec. 3, 1980.
Most Nunciatura officials escaped the building, leaving behind four nuns, a civilian watchman and the eight would-be refugees, said Norberto Fuentes, a Cuban writer in Miami who has researched the case extensively.
In a decision still wrapped in controversy, a church official gave Cuban security forces permission to enter the diplomatic mission and remove the asylum seekers, apparently on the promise it would be done peacefully.
The eight initially agreed to meet on the Nunciatura grounds with negotiators portrayed by the Cuban government as neutral Central American diplomats, said Fuentes. But they quickly recognized one as a lieutenant colonel in the security forces, and opened fire with a pistol, sending the ``negotiators running outside.
Barely five hours after the asylum seekers had broken in the Nunciatura, an 18-man anti-terrorism squad from the Interior Ministry's elite Special Troops burst into the complex and captured the eight.
The Garcia Marins were taken to secret police headquarters in Havana on Jan. 1 and were told by Amat that they had been ``tried and sentenced to death, said Bofill, who also investigated the case. They were shot the next day, and the others were sentenced to prison terms of 15 to 25 years.
``It was an extremely summary process, said one Interior Ministry official who defected in 1992.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald