By Yudy Castro Morales – Jul 21, 2021
Following the riots that took place on July 11 and 12, as part of the political-communication operation encouraged and paid for by the US government against Cuba, lists of alleged missing persons have begun to circulate on the internet.
But, are there really missing persons in the country? Are such lists real? What is the procedure for the detention of a person? What limits are there to the actions of the authorities?
In answering these questions, during an appearance this Tuesday on the program Hacemos Cuba, Colonel Victor Alvarez Valle, second chief of the Specialized Body of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), categorically assured that in Cuba there are no missing persons, neither due to the recent disorder, nor due to any other operations that were carried out.
“We have as a principle, in the Revolution—and it is also what characterizes the actions of the authorities—the right to life, to freedom, the right to the preservation and security of people,” said the colonel, while informing that Cuba is a signatory of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
This position, he said, was also recognized in the Constitution approved by the majority of Cubans, and there is a group that monitors and would discipline any who commit these actions, in the event that an enforced disappearance is proven.
Furthermore, he added, “there is no secret establishment for the processing of persons who, for any reason, or for the commission of crimes, are taken to one of the units of MININT.”
Regarding the process of detention of a citizen, José Luis Reyes Blanco, head of the Department of Supervision of the Directorate of Criminal Proceedings of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR), explained that regarding “the records of this process, the detention record that is signed by the person involved, the information about the detainee, and the presence of the Prosecutor’s Office throughout the criminal process from the beginning, contributes to monitoring the investigation and allows us to ensure that in our country, after 1959, there have never been missing persons.” Evidently, if there were events of this nature in the country, the number of denunciations in the Prosecutor’s Office, through all its channels available to citizens, would be considerable.
However, commented Reyes Blanco, in the year 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the Prosecutor’s Office served more than 129,000 people throughout the country; during the first semester of this year, the requests exceeded 49,000 and, as of July 12, for events associated to the riots, 63 people have contacted the office, mostly through face-to-face channels.
“However, none of these complaints or claims have been related to disappearances”, stressed Reyes Blanco, “but to arrests.” That is to say, individuals were in search of information, which they have received, regarding locations to which the parties in question were held, for example.
“Today,” he added, “the Prosecutor’s Office is investigating five claims related to procedural irregularities, but none of these pending cases deals with the question of an individual’s location. There is information and, more importantly, the family knows it.”
In this sense, Colonel Alvarez Valle pointed out that when a person is taken to a police unit, the first thing that is done is to register them in a logbook, manually, before the arrest record is drawn up. Therefore, the person knows why they are being taken to the station.
Then, he continued, there follows a process that can take place in the first 24 hours, which includes taken the detained individual’s statement, and determining the measures that, depending on the crime, can be imposed.
“In the first 24 hours, the family generally knows where the person is because, in addition, MININT has a system of notification for the population, automated and interlinked among all units, where each of the detained persons is recorded.”
“In recent cases,” continued Alvarez Valle, “all the families know where detainees are; they have gone to the locations, they have delivered belongings with personal hygiene materials or specific medicines. In other words, the information on the whereabouts of the people is established and auditable by the control bodies of the Prosecutor’s Office.”
He also referred to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which Cuba is a party and was reviewed in 2017. As applied in the country, Article 17, specifically, establishes, among other elements, that:
• No one shall be secretly detained.
• Without prejudice to other international obligations of the State party regarding deprivation of liberty, each State party, in its legislation:
• Shall establish the conditions under which orders of deprivation of liberty may be issued.
• Determine the authorities empowered to order deprivation of liberty.
• Guarantee that any person deprived of liberty shall be held only in officially recognized and controlled places of deprivation of liberty.
• Guarantee that any person deprived of liberty shall be authorized to communicate with and be visited by their family, a lawyer or any other person of their choice, subject only to the conditions established by law, and in the case of a foreigner, to communicate with their consular authorities, in accordance with applicable international law.
• Shall guarantee the access of any competent authority and institution empowered by law to locations of deprivation of liberty, if necessary, with the prior authorization of judicial authority.
For his part, the prosecutor clarified that all persons detained after the events of July 11 are able to appoint a lawyer. That some do not have one is due to the choice of each individual.
And to totally refute the veracity of the aforementioned lists, at another point during the program communication was established with one of the alleged missing persons, who also spoke of other compatriots whose names inflate the lists circulated on the internet, and who are actually in perfect condition.
The Second Chief of the Specialized Body of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation of MININT reiterated that these lists lack credibility due to the absence of verifiable data, and because it has been proven that many of those registered therein have never been arrested or even questioned by the authorities.
Reyes Blanco commented that, among the detainees, a group has already been released because it has been confirmed that they did not participate in any criminal acts, others are under a non-custodial precautionary measure, and there are defendants in the preparatory phase, held under a precautionary measure of provisional detention.
Torture will never be practiced by Cuban authorities
Another narrative that has been put forth on social media networks is the allegation that those involved in the destabilizing actions are now being tortured.
“Just like forced disappearances, torture is not a practice in Cuba,” said Colonel Alvarez Valle. “The history of the Revolution proves it. It is not, and it will not be, the practice of the agents of the Ministry of the Interior to use force against those being prosecuted.” He also said that Cuba is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
José Luis Reyes detailed that, after the protests, the presence of prosecutors in the units has increased, because it is in the interest of hearing the opinion of the detainees, and this is a favorable scenario for dialogue and to convey any concerns or complaints.
The broadcast of Hacemos Cuba also called attention to a complaint of a young man that has been shared widely on social media networks, referring to alleged acts of violence committed against him, following his detention after the riots.
This person, the colonel pointed out, was subject to a precautionary measure of house arrest for a previous process, which incurred measures that he has to comply with. However, he was in the street, outside the vicinity of his home, in the middle of the disturbances of the order, which broke the provisions of his house arrest, of which he was informed.
Prosecutor Reyes Blanco added that, among the complaints in progress at the Prosecutor’s Office, there is that of this young man, since his father presented himself at the office. All the relevant data was taken and the pertinent inquiries and investigations will be carried out, with total transparency.
Should any irregularity arise, said the colonel, the circumstances in which the facts occurred will be clarified and the corresponding measures will be taken, either in the disciplinary order, if he were a combatant, or in the criminal order if the conduct were to be in violation of the law.
Therefore, the case was made abundantly clear that in Cuba there are no disappeared or tortured persons, and if any irregularity occurred or had occurred in the actions of the Ministry of the Interior or the Prosecutor’s Office, it will be investigated, the results will be made known to the public. If violations are confirmed, measures will be taken to permit justice to be served.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews. Additional translation by Orinoco Tribune.