Bolivian Court: Expelling Cuban Dissident Unconstitutional

From Human Rights Foundation:

HRF Victory: Expelling Dissident from Bolivia Ruled Unconstitutional

Bolivian Court Admits Human Rights Foundation Brief and Decides for Freedom

Sucre , BOLIVIA On Friday February 2, 2007, the Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia announced that it ruled against the government of Evo Morales and in favor of a man falsely detained and expelled from Bolivia for publicly criticizing Fidel Castro and Evo Morales.

Amauris Samartino, a Cuban refugee who had lived in Bolivia since 2000, was detained on December 23, 2006, for 17 days. While in government custody, Samartino was informed that he was to be deported to Cuba , but after an international outcry he was instead expelled, without a hearing, to Colombia .

The Bolivian court announced today that the governments actions were outside of the law, arbitrary, and violated equality before the law, freedom of speech, and due process. The court called the governments actions illegal. The New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) adopted Samartino as a Prisoner of Conscience three days after his arrest and filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the Constitutional Tribunal delineating the illegal nature of the governments activities as well as the four international treaties violated in this case. HRF asked the court to enforce Bolivian law. The brief was admitted and published on the courts website. We celebrate that the court decided in favor of freedom. Bolivia is in a political crisis and the principle of the separation of powersespecially an independent judiciarywill be determining factor as to whether it will be a free country or slide into authoritarianism, said HRF president Thor Halvorssen.

Samartino, a medical doctor, left Cuba in 1999 in a makeshift raft. He was picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat and taken to the Guantanamo military base. He was given asylum in Bolivia along with eleven other Cuban nationals as a political refugee.

Throughout 2006, Mr. Samartino criticized Fidel Castro in the Bolivian media, calling him a dictator and condemning his influence on Bolivian president Evo Morales and his government. Samartino was arrested at gunpoint and subjected to numerous human rights violations, including wrongful imprisonment, arbitrary detainment, due process abuse, undue restriction of free speech, and forced exile.

HRF is in frequent contact with Samartino and several grassroots organizations inside Bolivia . HRF has learned that individuals who have expressed solidarity with Samartino have been subjected to death threats from unknown individuals. Bolivia is not a safe place for Samartino or for anyone who criticizes the government. He rightfully fears for his life and is seeking asylum in a free country, said Halvorssen.

The Bolivian cabinet minister who ordered Samartinos arrest and expulsion, Alicia Muñoz, was removed from her post. The actions of the Bolivian government violated the Geneva Convention of 1951, the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights. HRF had begun proceedings to present Samartinos case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

HRF notes with alarm that former minister Muñoz has become a diplomatic official in the Bolivian Embassy in Switzerland . Switzerland is the only country that has expressed a willingness to consider an asylum request from Samartino.

HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the American hemisphere. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRFs ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRFs International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Armando Valladares, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Read the article here.

5 thoughts on “Bolivian Court: Expelling Cuban Dissident Unconstitutional”

  1. So Bolivia still has an independent judiciary and separation of powers. Well, it’s going to lose that soon just as we did and the Samartino case was the first salvo. Why are the people of Latin America so unconscious of their own interests and so easily misled by every demagogue? Is it our fate forever to fall prey to the venality of both dictators and nominal democrats? Must the march of civilization always be in circles in our countries? Must we always live one step away from the abyss? What curse has befallen us that though we rear the greatest men, liberators and apostles like Bolívar and Martí, we never seem to profit by the lessons they teach us?

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