Media Center



  April 16, 2003

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its condemnation of the execution by the State of Cuba of Lorenzo Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García y Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac who were accused and condemned as the persons responsible for the kidnapping of a boat in the Havana Bay, in which the passengers were taken as hostages. This act took place in the early morning hours of 11 April 2003.

The executed persons had been tried in the Court of Crimes Against State, Popular Court, Havana City (Sala de los Delitos contra la Seguridad del Estado del Tribunal Popular de Ciudad de La Habana). The Court convened a summary trial procedure under the articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal Procedure Law. The process began on 5 April and was concluded by 8 April. The Court condemned the three persons for the crimes of planned terrorism as provided for in Law 93, Against Acts of Terrorism of 24 December 2001. The three condemned appealed to the Popular Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo Popular). According to the official information, the Supreme Court passed a new judgment in which the previous sentence was ratified. The maximum penalty sentences were officially submitted to the State Council (Consejo de Estado) for their consideration, and they held they were, “absolutely justified and the judges decisions were in strict compliance (accordance) with the laws”. The Council, according to the official release, analyzed the seriousness of the facts and the potential dangers the condemned persons implied for the life of innocent persons and for the country’s security.

In its recent report on Terrorism and Human Rights, the Commission showed that the imposition of the death penalty is only valid pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court and in accordance with a law establishing such punishment, enacted prior to the commission of the crime. The imposition of this penalty is subject to strict procedural requirements and a rigorous control of the minimum guarantees of the right to a fair trial, which are fundamental. These requirements include, among others, the presumption of innocence, the right not to be convicted of an offense except on the basis of individual penal responsibility and the right to be judged by a competent, independent and impartial court in accordance with applicable international law previously established by law. They also include the following procedural guarantees for the accused of crimes that carry the death penalty: the right of prior notification in detail of the charges against them; the right to adequate time and means for the preparation of their defense; the right to examine witnesses who testify against them; the right to obtain the appearance and examine their witnesses under the same conditions as those witnesses against them; the right to counsel, after the conviction, about the legal proceedings, or other matters including filing deadlines and the right to an appeal before a superior court.
In the opinion of the IACHR, the summary character that followed the judgement against the persons and which concluded with the imposition of the death penalty did not guarantee any of the above-mentioned requirements of due process. As a result, their execution is converted into the arbitrary deprivation of life.

The IACHR is the principal organ of the Organization of the American States (OAS) with the mandate to promote and protect the observance of human rights in the Hemisphere and whose attributions are derived from, among others, the OAS Charter. Resolution VI of the Eighth Consultation Meeting of 1959 excluded the Government of Cuba, not the State, from participating in the OAS. As a result, the Commission continues monitoring the human rights situation in Cuba. The Cuban State is obligated internationally to respect and guarantee the rights emanated in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Washington D.C., 16 April 2003

Reference: CIDH-12