At a packed Peel room in the House of Commons Ambassadors, MPs, celebrities, academics, legal experts and campaigners warmly welcomed the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Cuban Five whilst slamming the UK government for refusing again to allow Rene Gonzalez (the first of the Five to be released) into the UK.
Baroness Angela Smith chairing the meeting felt “insulted by the refusal to allow a speaker into the house who had been invited by 29 Parliamentarians”. Rene is currently visiting Europe where no other country has made any objections to his entry.
It was left again to Rene’s wife Olga to represent the Five and to thank everyone for our solidarity. Praising the Cuba Solidarity Campaign for always being the first to campaign, open new doors and avenues for seeking the Five’s release, smiling she said: “Even in such a cold climate we have never known such human warmth as you give us”. Denouncing what she called “this whole shameful affair” Olga described how “The government of the United States has colluded with the Courts to violate US law.” She said “Key charges were never proved and yet three very long sentences were handed down in what we can show are political cases.” Referring to the United Nations Committee on Arbitrary detentions decision in 2005 as evidence of their unfair imprisonment she demanded to know “Why is it that three years ago we had a special appeal on this issue and so far no response from the US judge?”
Thanking the Cuba Solidarity Campaign again for our support she said the families have lost some strength as two mothers, one father and one brother have died over the last 16 years but children have grown up and new members of the family have been born.
“We are a big family and you are part of it too. Wherever we cannot fill a gap there is yourselves” she said to applause. “I am an optimist” she declared “and before Obama leaves we will secure the release of the remaining three and extend the joy that I feel with all the other families.”
Waving the Commission report Baroness Smith stressed “If you ever need for any arguments about the case it is all in here”. Professor Sara Chandler, one of the Commission Co-Ordinators went through the key elements of the report highlighting the illegal detention, the trial, human rights abuses, witness testimony and the detailed legal findings of the Commissioners.
Barrister Elizabeth Woodcraft also a Commission Co-Ordinator, explained how Rene was denied entry for the second time to the UK because of a rule that says you cannot enter “if you have a criminal conviction of 4 years or over”. However this can be waived in "exceptional, compelling or compassionate" circumstances.
The refusal decision was appealed on the 4 September, turned down and heard again at a final appeal the next day in front of three judges at the High Court. Barrister Mark Macdonald represented Rene and secured a decision that has interesting implications. As the Government was not there to be represented, the three judges have asked for a further hearing for the government to explain its reasoning. The judges will want to know why there are no circumstances that could not allow the rule to be waived and the invitation of 29 Parliamentarians allowed to go ahead. We could therefore now see the UK courts having a debate about the legality of the Five’s trial in the US ensuring that “more and more people will get to know about this case” said Baroness Smith.
Jeremy Corbyn MP praised the bravery and dignity of the Five and stressed the importance of our efforts. Commenting on the importance of contacting MPs, attending vigils, letting the families know of our support he looked forward to the time when all the Five and their families can come for tea on the House of Commons terrace and we can all celebrate with Olga the end of this horrific injustice.