Japanese lawyer: United States Has Violated the Cuban Five’s Right to a Fair Trial

By Nylian Vázquez García

May 21, 2009

The case of the five Cuban antiterrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States has gathered people from around the world who are calling on the US Supreme Court to review the rigged judicial process levied against these men.

A group of Japanese lawyers and institutions are among the growing number of people and organizations to sign 12 Amicus Curiae presented on March 6 by the defence lawyers of Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and Ramón Labañino —known as the Cuban Five.

Japanese lawyer and former legislator Osamu Yatabe explained to JR how in a short period of time several Japanese legal and human rights organizations got together to sign the Amicus Curiae.

In an interview via email, Yatabe said that he first learned about the Cuban Five during a meeting with Cuban Ambassador to Japan José Fernández who detailed the case and spoke about the international struggle to bring the five men back to Cuba with their families.

“The Japanese judges agreed that the case of the Cuban Five is a serious violation of human rights and decided to work on an Amicus along with other organizations,” said Yatabe.

“We felt that it was essential to communicate with US professionals responsible for the case to obtain more legal information and documents,” said Yatabe who added that the defence lawyers of the Cuban Five immediately sent the requested material.

“We presented an Amicus draft to Japanese organizations involved in human rights issues: the Lawyers Center for Social-democracy, the Japan Democratic Lawyers’ Association, the Japan Lawyers International Solidarity Association, the Foundation from Human Rights in Asia, and the Japan Civil Liberties Union. We gained the support of members of these organizations, law professors, and practicing lawyers and politicians, who have had a lot to do with peace and human rights issues.

“All in all, we gathered more than 50 people who have actively worked with these issues. This is the first time we have all gathered together in such a quick time to work together on one case,” said Yatabe.

“Summarizing, our belief is that human rights should be equally enjoyed by all individuals...there are no national borders when it comes to human rights. In the Cuban Five case, the right to a fair trial, which the US Constitution guarantees, was violated. We are confident that this situation should be corrected.”

There are two major aspects of the case that Osamu Yatabe defines as follows:

“The first is the violation of the right to a fair trial. The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution provides an impartial jury and tribunal in all judicial processes, but Miami is a community where prejudice and hatred prevail and the trial was carried out by juries affected by the feelings of this community. The trial violates Article 14-1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which establishes that everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing.

“Under the Sixth Amendment, every person has the right to receive legal assistance of counsel, but the Cuban Five had been kept in isolation cells for 17 months. They were impeded from meeting counsels for legal assistance. This violates Article 14-3 of the abovementioned Covenant.

“The second is the violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees due processes. Every defendant has the right to disclosure of evidence from the prosecutor, but the Cuban Five were not shown this evidence, under the justification that the case involved the national security of the United States, depriving them of the opportunity to defend themselves. Their right to defence was violated, and this violates the Constitution,” wrote Yatabe.

The Japanese lawyer says that beyond the human element of this case is finding out how many US and international laws have been blatantly violated during the course of this case.

“We believe that the United States should also be an example of a nation that makes every effort to respect its Constitution and international covenants, and should demonstrate that it respects basic human rights and values, rather than just giving advice on the matter to the rest of the world.

“The US Supreme Court should review the case of the Cuban Five and show that its legal system works well, both in the national and international context.”

Note: In June 2009, the US Supreme Court is scheduled to announce whether it will agree to review the case of the Cuban Five. Then, we will know if the voices of Osamu Yatabe and the other 54 Japanese signatories, as well as thousands of people worldwide, were heard.