To mark the third anniversary of the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a legal report today highlighting the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the official government investigation following Payá’s death in 2012. HRF has documented numerous due process violations, including damning witness accounts, a grossly inadequate autopsy examination, and other key pieces of evidence that were overlooked by the Cuban judicial system. HRF’s report concludes that the “evidence, which was deliberately ignored, strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident, but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state.” HRF will present the report today at Georgetown University. Payá’s daughter, Rosa María, will be in attendance.
“Oswaldo Payá was the most prominent Latin American pro-democracy activist of the last twenty five years and he was killed under suspicion of foul play in the Western Hemisphere’s only totalitarian country. Yet, few mainstream politicians, media, and NGOs around the world have cared enough to insist on an independent investigation into Payá’s death,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “With the publication of this thorough report, which brings to light evidence that has been purposefully obscured by Cuba’s repressive apparatus, HRF hopes to fill this vacuum and help the Payá family in their search for truth and justice,” said Halvorssen.
The driver of the vehicle carrying Payá, Spanish national Ángel Carromero, was immediately taken into custody at a hospital, and later transferred to prisons in Bayamo and Havana. On October 15, 2012, he was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison. On December 29, 2012, Carromero arrived in Spain under an agreement brokered by his government, and soon after retracted all statements he made under duress in Cuba. Carromero eventually told his full story in a book entitled, “Death Under Suspicion.” After analyzing all the evidence that emerged in the months that followed Payá’s death, HRF’s legal report concludes that Carromero was forced to record a self-incriminating video that was broadcast domestically and internationally, and that the Cuban prosecution ignored the complaints made by the Payá family and barred them from the court proceedings.
HRF’s report also found that Carromero did not have access to an attorney for several weeks after the accident, and later had no choice but to hire members of the only lawyers guild allowed by the Cuban government. Members of this guild are legally compelled to “defend the Revolution” and perform their duties “inspired by the example set by the Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.” Finally, the report found that the prosecution did not allow Carromero access to the case file or to the evidence on which the accusation was based; his attorneys could not present new evidence; none of the allegations made for each one of these violations was investigated or clarified by the Cuban authorities; and that, “to date, the victims’ next of kin don’t know the full, complete, and public truth as to what happened to their relatives.”
“The best available evidence, which was deliberately ignored by Cuba’s judiciary, strongly suggests direct government responsibility in the deaths of Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero,” said Javier El-Hage, general counsel of HRF. “Specifically, the evidence suggests that their deaths were the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state, acting with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and the passengers in the vehicle he was riding, with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them, or with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to their lives,” said El-Hage.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, 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; HRF’s 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. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.