Case Nos. 1732, 1737 and 1742(Cuba)

Case 1732, December 30, 1971, claiming that on December 5 and 15 of that year ships of the Cuban navy attacked the ships "Lyle Express" and "Johnny Express," owned by the company Bahamas Lines, S.A., while in international waters, and that the 28 crew members of those ships were seized and taken to Cuba. Twenty-four of them were freed; the whereabouts of Captain José Villa and crew members Messrs. Ovidio Avila, José Agustín Torres, and Félix Pablo Gary, who remained in Cuban territory, was unknown.

The aforementioned denunciation was supported by other persons and organizations requesting that the Commission take action to gain the freedom of the crew members named and guarantees of humane treatment during their stay in Cuba.

The Commission considered this case during its Twenty-seventh Session (February-March 1972) and appointed Dr. Mario Alzamora Valdez as rapporteur. The rapporteur recommended that the case be examined in terms of the question of the CIDH's competence to admit communications or claims regarding events allegedly in violation of human rights in Cuba, whose government is excluded from participation in the Organization of American States.

At that session the Commission decided to postpone the examination of communication 1732 until its next regular session scheduled for October 1972, at which time it would again consider the question of its competence to admit and examine denunciations regarding the status of human rights in Cuba.

Following its Twenty-seventh Session, the Commission received several communications on the same case, urgently requesting it to act in defense of the human rights of the crew members still detained in Cuban territory.

The Commission accordingly included the examination of case 1732 on its agenda for the Twenty-eighth (Special) Session, held May 1-5, 1972.

On the basis of the recommendations of the rapporteur, and viewing the case in light of Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (1962), as broadened in 1964 by the Ninth Meeting of Consultation, the Commission decided the following: (a) to reaffirm the principle that the resolutions of the organ of consultation have no bearing on the Commission's competence to continue admitting and examining communications or claims on the status of human rights in Cuba, for "in no case may the Commission relinquish its irrenounceable obligation to promote respect for human rights in all and each one of the member states of the Organization"; (b) to request the Government of Cuba to provide pertinent information on the events denounced, pursuant to articles 42 and 44 of the Regulations.

In compliance with point (b) of that decision, a note dated May 9, 1972, was sent to the Government of Cuba.

At its Twenty-ninth Session (October 1972), the Commission verified the fact that, as with the other requests transmitted to the Cuban Government, that government had not replied with regard to case 1732.

Accordingly, at that session, by virtue of paragraph 1 of Article 51 of its Regulations, the Commission decided to consider as confirmed the events denounced in the communication of December 30, 1971, and subsequent communications, regarding the seizure in international waters of the ships "Lyle Express" and "Johnny Express," owned by the company Bahamas Lines, S.A.; the arbitrary detention of the crew in Cuban territory; and the continued detention of the crew members Messrs. José Villa (Captain), Ovidio Avila, José Agustín Torres, and Félix Pablo Gary.

Following that decision, the Commission learned that Captain José Villa, of the ship "Johnny Express" (who had recently been turned over to the Government of Panama by Cuban authorities), would be tried on the charge of allowing his ship to be used for subversive activities against the Government of Cuba.

In view of these facts, the Commission decided, at its Thirtieth Session (April 1973), to send a note to the Government of Panama requesting information on the legal status of Captain Villa, leaving the case pending until it received that information. A note dated June 19, 1973, to that effect was sent to the Government of Panama. On that date the claimants were also informed of the decision.

By a note dated June 25, 1973 (DOI-2416), the Government of Panama replied by stating that Captain Villa was "subject to legal proceedings by competent Panamanian judicial authority, inasmuch as he is accused of utilizing a ship of Panamanian registry to carry out subversive operations in Cuban territorial waters." The official statement added that "because he possesses United States as well as Cuban citizenship, Captain Villa has received visits by the Consul of the United States and by his wife. He also enjoys the guarantees that Panamanian laws offer for his defense."

At its Thirty-first Session (October 1973), the Commission continued its examination of Case 1752. Taking into account the information provided by the Government of Panama, it decided to file the case without further action, this decision being comunicated to the claimants.

Case 1737, March 1, 1972, claiming that there are in Cuba more than 85000 political prisoners subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and that in many cases the system of arbitrarily prolonged arrest has been established by imposing an additional three-year sentence at the end of each preceding one, for failure to cooperate with the government in the so-called Rehabilitation Plan.

At its Twenty-Ninth Session (October 1972), the Commission examined this communication and, because it did not meet all the requirements set forth in Article 38 of its Regulations, decided to request the claimant to complete it.

In compliance with this decision, a note dated November 15, 1972, was sent to the claimant.

In a communication dated May 5, 1973, the claimant informed the Commission that he was prepared to furnish evidence that would prove the denunciation.

The Commission continued its examination of the case during the Thirtieth Session (April 1973). It decided to grant the claimant an interview so he might submit the aforementioned proof, without prejudice to the subsequent transmittal of such proof to the Government of Cuba with a request for information, in accordance with the procedure established by the Regulations of the Commission (articles 42 and 44.)

In a note dated April 24, 1973, the claimant excused himself from attending the interview, sending several documents on the case. The Commission requested Dr. Genaro R. Carrió, as rapporteur, to examine the case and to formulate such recommendations as he deemed appropriate.

The rapporteur prepared a report (doc.42-30 RES. rev. 1) on the basis of which the Commission decided, at that session, to commission the Executive Secretary of the CIDH to receive the claimant and to take that occasion to investigate the case, informing the Chairman of his findings, the Commission decided also to authorize the Chairman, on the basis of the information furnished him by the Executive Secretary and the information in the file or case 1737, to decide whether or not to request information from the Government of Cuba and, if so, along what lines and within what parameters.

Pursuant to that decision, the Executive Secretary addressed the claimant by a letter dated May 21, 1973.

Taking into account the fact that the claimant had been unable to meet with the Executive Secretary before the Thirty-First Session (October 1973) in order to furnish confidential proof of the events denounced, the Commission at that session decided to postpone its decision on the processing of the matter until its next session and to inform the claimant of that decision. To that end, a communication was sent to the claimant on November 26, 1973.

Case 1742, April 10, 1972, claiming that several United States citizens resident in Cuba for six years had been attempting to obtain their repatriation, having been informed by the representation of the Republic of Switzerland in Cuba that "it had not yet received the necessary authorization for their departure from the Government of Cuba."

The Commission considered this communication at its Twenty-ninth Session (October 1972) and decided: (i) to request the Government of Cuba to provide the pertinent information, pursuant to articles 42 and 44 of the Regulations; (ii) to address the Government of the Swiss Confederation, requesting that "insofar as possible, it inform the Commission whether it is true that the negotiations being conducted by many citizens of the United States of America through the Swiss Embassy in Cuba in order to obtain authorization to travel to their country of origin (United States) are unduly delayed."

In compliance with those decisions, the Commission sent the Governments of Cuba and Switzerland notes dated November 1 and 14, 1972, respectively. To date, the Government of Cuba has not replied to the request for information.

The Government of Switzerland replied as follows:

"Given the juridical nature of the mandate of protective power (mandat de puissance protectrice), the latter does not carry the uncumbency of formulating before third states or interstate organizations a value of judgment on any attitude of the government of the state regarding which it exercises its protection. The Government of the Swiss Confederation therefore considers that only the Government of the United States is competent to receive the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights."

At its Thirtieth Session (April 1973), the Commission continued its examination of the case. In view of the terms of the note from the Swiss Government, on the one hand, and the lack of a reply from the Government of Cuba, on the other, the Commission decided to approach the Government of the United States of America with a request for information, in accordance with articles 42 and 44 of the Regulations. Accordingly, a note, dated June 17, 1973, was sent to that government. By a communication of June 18, 1973, the claimant was advised of the new form of processing the matter.

At its Thirty-first Session (October 1975), the Commission noted that the Government of the United States had not replied to the note of June 17, 1973, and therefore decided to repeat that request for information, meanwhile postponing its examination of the case.

Through its Mission to the OAS, the Government of the United States replied to the Commission's request in a note dated December 13, 1973, enclosing information on the steps taken by the United States citizens still resident in Cuba before the Swiss representation in Cuba, in order to leave that country, particularly on the status of such arrangements as they concern the claimant's relatives.

In a communication dated December 28, 1973 the Commission forwarded to the claimaint the pertinent parts of the information provided by the Mission of the United States to the OAS.