Justice Has Another Meaning in Cuba
Official Cuban jurists are upset, very upset. After the sentences, which reach up to 30 years in prison, against hundreds of demonstrators of the protest on July 11 (11J), the names of prosecutors and judges have been spread on social networks. Next to their faces there are denunciations that they used the courts to send a message of terror and, in response to this complaint, the lawyers have responded with various threats.
A statement from the Havana branch of the Union of Cuban Jurists insists that its members are being victims of a “smear campaign.” The text warns that any person who joins these criticisms, even “simply providing the information,” will bear the full weight of the law. It adds that they are willing to exchange the judicial robe and the dais for the rifle and the trench coat. The tone of the document is more reminiscent of war language than legal language.
Why is this reaction so angry? If they believe they have been fair, what is the reason for the discomfort over the publication of their identities? Did they expect that the relatives of the condemned would keep the sentences secret and settle for seeing their children languish behind bars? Is it that they think they are so above the people that their performance cannot even be questioned? The statement of these prosecutors and judges can only be understood if they feared that the current Cuban political system’s days were numbered. It is only comprehendible if they sense that the possibility of being held accountable for their actions is just around the corner.
Although Justice is represented as a blindfolded woman, the professionals who are in charge of imparting it must be governed by transparency and personally sign each legal process in which they participate. It is not about a gang of outlaws in balaclavas executing suspected culprits in the middle of a forest in the dead of night, but about people who graduated from a specialty that implies the responsibility of publicly assuming their decisions and mistakes.
The intimidating statement released by the Union of Jurists further discredits a penal system without independence that has been used to intimidate citizens and deprive them of their right to civic protest. With their actions, and now with their words, they make it clear that their place is not on the side of procedural guarantees but of political power. They have used the courts in order to support an ideology. They have muddied their robes.
Although the official text is peppered with aggressive phrases, fear can be read between the lines. Instead of a vindication of their practice of jurisprudence, it is actually the statement of people who are terrified of the future. Every word written there is evidence of the fear that grows inside them, every time they imagine that one day they could end up in court, before a jury that does not answer to a Party but to the law.