In an unusual legal challenge to the Cuban government, dissident lawyers have filed a formal complaint against State Security agents for the “arbitrary” and violent arrests of opposition activists earlier this month.
The complaint submitted last week to a provincial Havana court asks prosecutors to condemn the detentions and impose “disciplinary measures for the damages caused” on those responsible.
Laritza Diversent, one of the four lawyers who signed the document, said it was designed to “exercise our right to complain,” which is guaranteed by the Cuban constitution and international human rights agreements that Havana has signed.
Also signing the complaint were lawyers Yaremis Flores, Bárbara Estrabao and Veizant Boloy and activist Ailer González. She is the partner of Antonio G. Rodiles, director of two dissident projects that have gained recognition in recent months.
They were all part of a group of dissidents arrested in Havana Nov. 7-8. Police freed most of them but are still holding Rodiles, who heads the de Estado de Sats project for intellectual freedoms and the Citizens Demand for Another Cuba, which focuses on human rights.
The complaint alleged that State Security agents who arrested the dissidents did not identify themselves and used unnecessary violence, especially against Rodiles. A cellphone photo taken in jail showed him with a black eye.
State Security agents violated the “principles for the protection of all people under any form of detention or prison,” the complaint noted. It said State Security agents refused to tell most relatives of those detained where they were being held.
Meanwhile, Angel Santiesteban-Prats, a well-known Havana author who was detained several times, published an open letter to Cuban leader Raúl Castro demanding Rodiles’ release.
“We have the unquestioned right to elect, disagree, join groups, express ourselves, decide what is most necessary for the Cuban nation and its future,” Santiesteban-Prats wrote.
Cuban dissidents historically haven’t taken their complaints to the country’s courts, knowing that they are tightly controlled by the executive branch and the ruling Communist Party. But a few cases have cropped up in recent years.
Diversent said she filed a similar complaint against arbitrary detentions in August. The court has not yet ruled, but under the island’s legal system, judges have until Nov. 28 to issue an initial reply.
Havana blogger Yoani Sánchez filed an administrative appeal with the Interior Ministry this summer demanding an explanation of why it never replied to her 2010 request for permission to travel abroad.
Dissident lawyer Wilfredo Vallín won his 2009 lawsuit against the Justice Ministry to force a reply to his initial effort to legally register the Cuban Juridical Association, a group of attorneys dedicated to assisting individual Cuban citizens with legal issues. He is now appealing the ministry’s reply that the association cannot be registered.