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By Salim Lamrani
AI now admits that the people it considers to be "prisoners of conscience" have "received funds or materials from the US government to carry out activities that the authorities consider subversive and harmful to Cuba." This policy flagrantly violates the principles and norms that govern relations between States.
Amnesty International (AI) is without a doubt the most famous human rights organization in the world. Created in 1961 by British lawyer Peter Benenson, this non-governmental organization has chapters in more than fifty countries and more than two million members around the world. Its outstanding work in favor of the abolition of the death penalty and torture, against political crimes and for the release of prisoners of opinion has allowed it to enjoy the status of a consultative body before the Economic and Social Council of Nations United States, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States, among others (1).
The "prisoners of opinion"
AI publishes every year a report on the situation of human rights in the world. Almost no country escapes its watchful eye. As for Cuba, the international organization records "69 prisoners of conscience" in its 2007 report and explains that they are imprisoned for "their non-violent political positions or activities ». The Cuban government rejects this charge and accuses AI of bias. The country's authorities severed relations with the organization in 1988, the date of AI's last visit to Cuba (2).
In a statement dated March 18, 2008, AI referred to "58 dissidents who remain incarcerated in different prisons in the country." The organization stresses that "the only crime committed by these 58 people is having peacefully exercised their fundamental freedoms." Kerry Howard, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Regional Program for the Americas, notes that "prisoners of conscience must be released immediately and unconditionally" (3).
In its statement, the international organization acknowledges that "most were accused of crimes such as 'acts against the independence of the State.' Amnesty International also recognizes that these people were convicted "of having received funds or materials from the US government to carry out activities that the authorities consider subversive and harmful to Cuba" (4).
To be convinced of such a reality, in force since 1959, it is enough to consult, in addition to the partially declassified American archives, section 1705 of the Torricelli Act of 1992, section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 and the two reports of the Commission. of Assistance to a Free Cuba of May 2004 and July 2006. All these documents reveal that the president of the United States finances the internal opposition in Cuba with the aim of overthrowing the government of Havana. It is here the main pillar of Washington's foreign policy with respect to Cuba (5).
Thus, section 1705 of the Torricelli Act stipulates that "the United States shall provide assistance to appropriate nongovernmental organizations to support individuals and organizations that promote nonviolent democratic change in Cuba" (6).
Section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act is also very clear: 'The President [of the United States] is authorized to provide assistance and offer all kinds of support to independent individuals and nongovernmental organizations to join efforts to build a democracy in Cuba »(7).
The first report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba foresees the elaboration of a "solid support program that favors Cuban civil society." Among the measures advocated, funding amounting to $ 36 million is earmarked for "supporting the democratic opposition and strengthening emerging civil society" (8).
On March 3, 2005 Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the Bush administration, noted that $ 14.4 million had been added to the $ 36 million budget provided in the 2004 report. Noriega even He was so sincere that he came to reveal the identity of some of the people who are in charge of the development of US foreign policy against Cuba (9).
Finally, the second report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba provides for a budget of 31 million dollars to finance, even more, the internal opposition. In addition, funding of at least $ 20 million per year is planned, with the same objective, for the following years "until the dictatorship ceases to exist" (10).
Therefore there is no doubt about this matter.
AI now admits that the people it considers to be "prisoners of conscience" have "received funds or materials from the US government to carry out activities that the authorities consider subversive and harmful to Cuba." Here, the organization is in full contradiction.
Indeed, international law makes it illegal to finance an internal opposition in another sovereign nation. All the countries of the world have a legal arsenal that allows them to defend national independence against this type of foreign aggression, codifying as crimes the conducts that favor the application of provisions that lead to subversion. It is a primary duty of any State.
Cuban legislation punishes with very severe sanctions any association with a foreign power with the aim of subverting the established order and destroying its political, economic and social system. Law no. 88 of the Protection of the National Independence and the Economy of Cuba was adopted on March 15, 1999, after the decision by the United States to increase economic sanctions and the financing of the internal opposition in Cuba.
Said legislation aims, as stipulated in Article 1, “to classify and punish those acts aimed at supporting, facilitating or collaborating with the objectives of the 'Helms-Burton' Law, the blockade and the economic war against [the] [Cuban] people , aimed at breaking the internal order, destabilizing the country and liquidating the socialist state and the independence of Cuba "(11)
The law provides penalties of seven to fifteen years of deprivation of liberty for any person who “provides, directly or through a third party, to the Government of the United States of America, its agencies, dependencies, representatives or officials, information to facilitate the objectives of the 'Helms-Burton' Law ”. This penalty will be from eight to twenty years in prison if the crime is committed with the assistance of two or more people or if it is stipend in one way or another (12).
Legislation no. 88 punishes with penalties from three to eight years in prison the fact of gathering, reproducing or disseminating material of a subversive nature from the "Government of the United States of America, its agencies, dependencies, representatives, officials or any foreign entity" with the aim of to support economic sanctions and destabilize the nation. The penalties will be from four to ten years in prison if the crime is carried out with the help of other people or if it is financed (13).
Finally, Article 11 stipulates that “whoever, […] directly or through a third party, receives, distributes or participates in the distribution of financial, material or other means, from the Government of the United States of America, its agencies , dependencies, representatives, officials or private entities, incurs a penalty of deprivation of liberty of three to eight years ”(14).
Thus, as Amnesty International explicitly admits, the people it considers to be "prisoners of conscience" actually committed a serious crime that is severely punished by Cuban law. Consequently, they go from the status of opponents to that of agents subsidized by a foreign power and they have to render accounts before the Cuban justice. In reality, "prisoners of conscience" are mercenaries in the service of a hostile and warmongering foreign power.
Cuban criminal specificity?
It should also be noted that historically the United States has been a staunch enemy of the independence and sovereignty of Cuba. In 1898, Washington intervened in Cuba's anticolonial war to prevent Cubans from fully acceding to self-determination and occupied the country until 1902. Then, Cuba became a kind of politically and economically dominated protectorate until 1958. Starting in 1959, The United States has tried everything to destroy the Cuban Revolution: terrorist attacks, armed invasion, threat of nuclear disintegration, economic sanctions, political, media and diplomatic war, and internal subversion.
Like any responsible state, the revolutionary government adopted legal measures for its survival against these acts. However, does Cuban criminal law have a particular character? Is it unique? Let us see what Western legislation provides - which, however, does not face the same threats as Cuba - for individuals who would put themselves at the service of a foreign power.
The American Penal Code
In the United States, these acts are heavily sanctioned. According to paragraph 951 of the Penal Code, “anyone who is not a diplomatic or consular official or attaché, who acts in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Minister of Justice […] is subject to this title of a sanction that It can reach ten years in prison. Point e / 2 / A of the paragraph specifies that "every person involved in a legal commercial transaction must be considered as an agent of a foreign government […] if it is an agent of Cuba." Thus, a Cuban who buys a medical device in the United States for a hospital in Havana is legally liable to receive a sanction that can reach ten years in prison (15).
Paragraph 953, known as the Logan Act, stipulates that “every citizen of the United States, whoever he may be, who, without authorization of the United States, undertakes or maintains, directly or indirectly, a correspondence or a relationship with a foreign government or any official or agent of the latter, with the intention of influencing the measures or conduct of a foreign government or of any official or agent thereof, with respect to a conflict or controversy with the United States ”is subject to a sanction that may reach three years in prison (16).
If such a law were applied in Cuba, the vast majority of what the Western press regards as "Cuban dissidence" would be behind bars. Indeed, Cuban opponents meet regularly with the United States representative in Havana, Michael Parmly, at the offices of the US Interests Section (SINA) or even at his personal residence.
Paragraph 954 provides a sanction of ten years in prison for any person who makes "false statements" with the aim of attacking the interests of the United States in its relations with another nation (17). Here too, if the opposition Oswaldo Payá - who accuses the Cuban government of being responsible for disappearances and of having murdered more than "twenty children" - were subjected to legislation as severe as that of the United States, he would currently be in jail, without causing any commotion among conservative western souls. However, the most famous of the Cuban dissidents has never been bothered by the Cuban justice system, since it has no proof that he receives money from a foreign power. In comparison, Raúl Rivero, who was a relatively moderate and lukewarm opponent of Payá, was sentenced to twenty years in prison (and released a year later) because he had accepted the generous emoluments that Washington was offering (18).
Paragraph 2381 stipulates that “any person who, owing allegiance to the United States, leads a war against the country or associates with its enemies, providing them with aid or support in the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and is liable to receive the death penalty, or a prison sentence of more than five years ”(19).
Thus, if US citizens had the same behaviors as individuals found guilty of association with a foreign power by Cuban justice, they would risk capital punishment. Paragraph 2385 provides a sentence of twenty years for any person who advocates the overthrow of the government or the established order (20).
As is easily verifiable, the US penal code is, in many respects, much more severe than Cuban law.
French criminal law
The French Penal Code also provides extremely severe penalties for proven association with a foreign power. According to article 411-4,
"The fact of maintaining intelligence relations with a foreign power, a company, a foreign organization or under foreign control, or with its agents, with a view to arousing hostilities or acts of aggression against France, is punishable by thirty years of criminal detention and 450,000 euros fine.
The same penalties are punishable for providing a foreign power, a foreign or foreign-controlled company or organization, or their agents with the means to launch hostilities or carry out acts of aggression against France ”(21).
French law is, in this respect, more severe than Cuban law.
The 1995 Spanish Penal Code provides severe penalties for those same crimes. According to Article 592, “those who, in order to harm the authority of the State or compromise the dignity or vital interests of Spain, maintain intelligence relations or relations of any kind shall be punished with a prison sentence of four to eight years. with foreign governments, with their agents or with international or foreign groups, organizations or associations ”(22).
Article 589 provides for a penalty of one to three years in prison for "whoever publishes or executes in Spain any order, provision or document of a foreign government that threatens the independence or security of the State, opposes the observance of its Laws or causes non-compliance "(23). If the famous Cuban Ladies in White had had the same behavior in Spain, they would be deprived of liberty.
The Belgian Penal Code
Chapter II of Belgian legislation dealing with "crimes and offenses against the external security of the State" and more precisely Article 114, stipulates that "whoever carries out maneuvers or maintains intelligence relations with a foreign power or with any person who acts in the interest of a foreign power, to lead that power to wage war against Belgium, or to procure the means for it, shall be punished by imprisonment for twenty to thirty years. If hostilities occur, he will be punished to life imprisonment "(24).
According to Article 243 of the Italian Penal Code, “whoever maintains intelligence relations with foreigners with the aim that a foreign State declares war or carries out acts of hostility against the Italian State, or commits other acts with the same objective, will be punished with a confinement of not less than ten years. If war breaks out, the death penalty will be applied ; if hostilities are proven, life imprisonment will be applied.  The death penalty is abolished and replaced by life imprisonment ”(25).
Article 246 deals with the financing of the citizen by a foreign power: «The citizen who, even indirectly, receives or is made to promise from abroad, for himself or for another, money or any other article, or accepts only the promise thereof, in order to commit acts contrary to national interests, he will be punished, if the act does not constitute the most serious act, with imprisonment from three to ten years. The penalty will be increased if "the money or the item is delivered or promised through propaganda through the press" (26).
Thus, Italian law is much more severe than Cuban law. If the famous dissidents like Payá, Marta Beatriz Roque or Elizardo Sánchez were in Italy, they would be imprisoned and not free
Even peaceful Switzerland provides penalties for the crime of association with a foreign power. Article 266 of the Penal Code stipulates that:
"one. Anyone who commits an act that threatens the independence of the Confederation or poses a danger to this independence, or causes an interference by a foreign power in the affairs of the Confederation, which poses a danger to the independence of the Confederation, shall be punished with a penalty of deprivation of liberty of at least one year.
2. Anyone who maintains intelligence relations with the government of a foreign State or with one of its agents with the aim of provoking a war against the Confederation will be punished with a penalty of deprivation of liberty of at least three years.
In serious cases, the judge may pronounce a life sentence ”.
Article 266 bis is also very clear:
"one. Whoever, with the aim of provoking or supporting companies or actions organized from abroad against the security of Switzerland, enters into a relationship with a foreign State, with foreign parties, or with other organizations abroad, or with their agents, or launches or spreads inaccurate or biased information, he will be punished with a penalty of deprivation of liberty of a maximum of five years or a pecuniary penalty.
In serious cases, the judge may pronounce a penalty of deprivation of liberty of at least one year "(27).
In Sweden, the Penal Code provides for a two-year prison sentence for “anyone who receives money or other donations from a foreign power, or from anyone acting in its interest, for the purpose of publishing or disseminating writings, or influencing others. any form in the public opinion regarding the internal organization of the State ”(28).
This Scandinavian democracy also sanctions "anyone who propagates or transmits inaccurate or biased information to foreign powers or their agents, with the aim of creating threats to the security of the State." Finally, a sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment is applied to those "who constitute a threat to the security of the State for having used illegal means with the support of a foreign power" (29).
Agents in the service of a foreign power and not "prisoners of conscience"
The examples could be multiplied to infinity. In any country in the world, the law severely punishes association with a foreign power and it is therefore not possible to assign the qualification of "prisoners of conscience" to individuals financed by a foreign government, as is the case of Cuban detainees. which, on the other hand, is honestly acknowledged by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International is an organization recognized for its seriousness, professionalism and impartiality. But the treatment he reserves for Cuba is debatable. In order to continue enjoying the same prestige and objectivity, AI would do well to reconsider, without waiting any longer, its judgment regarding those it considers "prisoners of conscience" in Cuba, as double standards are unacceptable.
* Salim lamrani He is a French professor, writer and journalist who specializes in relations between Cuba and the United States. He has published the books: Washington contre Cuba (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005), Cuba face à l'Empire (Genève: Timeli, 2006) and Fidel Castro, Cuba et les Etats-Unis (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2006). He just published Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme (Paris: Editions Estrella, 2008).
Reviewed by Caty R. who belongs to the Rebelión, Tlaxcala and Cubadebate collectives. This article may be freely reproduced on condition of respecting its integrity and mentioning the author, the reviewer and the source.
(1) Amnesty International, "L’histoire d’Amnesty International", undated. http://www.amnesty.org/fr/who-we-are/history (site accessed April 23, 2008).
(2) Amnesty International, «Cuba. Rapport 2007 », April 2007. http://www.amnesty.org/fr/region/americas/caribbean/cuba#report (site accessed April 23, 2008).
(3) Amnesty International, «Cuba: Five years too many; the new government must release the imprisoned dissidents », March 18, 2008. http://www.amnesty.org/es/jailed-dissidents-2 (site accessed April 23, 2008).
(5) Salim Lamrani, Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme (Paris: Editions Estrella, 2008), pp. 45-55.
(6) Cuban Democracy Act, Titre XVII, Section 1705, 1992.
(7) Helms-Burton Act, Titre I, Section 109, 1996.
(8) Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, May 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (site accessed May 7, 2004), pp. 16, 22.
(9) Roger F. Noriega, "Assistant Secretary Noriega’s Statement Before the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations", Department of State, March 3, 2005. www.state.gov/p/wha/rls/rm/2005/ql/42986.htm (site accessed April 9, 2005).
(10) Condoleezza Rice & Carlos Gutierrez, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, July 2006). www.cafc.gov/documents/organization/68166.pdf (site accessed July 12, 2006), p. twenty.
(11) Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba, Law for the protection of national independence and the economy of Cuba (LAW NO 88), March 15, 1999.
(15) U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 45, § 951.
(16) U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 45, § 953.
(17) U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 45, § 954.
(18) The Miami Herald, "Message from Payá highlights that there are disappeared people on the island", March 18, 2005, p. 23A.
(19) U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115, § 2381.
(20) U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115, § 2385.
(21) French Penal Code, Book IV, Chapter I, Section 2, Article 411-4.
(22) Spanish Penal Code of 1995, Chapter II, Article 592.
(23) Spanish Penal Code of 1995, Chapter II, Article 589.
(24) Belgian Penal Code, Chapter II, Article 114.
(25) Italian Penal Code, Book II, Title I, Chapter I, Article 243.
(26) Italian Penal Code, Book II, Title I, Chapter I, Article 246.
(27) Swiss Penal Code, Article 266.
(28) Swedish Penal Code, Chapter 19, Article 13.
(29) Swedish Penal Code, Chapter 19, Article 8.