Arnold August

March 30, 2009 11:48 ET

Open Letter to Canadian Media: Canada, the Cuban 5 and the US Supreme Court

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - March 30, 2009) - Canada presented its candidacy to the new United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) through an April 10, 2006 official declaration. This statement indicated that the Canadian Government " committed to making a positive contribution to ensuring that the Human Rights Council (HRC) becomes an effective body for the promotion and protection of human rights." During the May 9, 2006 UN General Assembly, Canada and forty-six other countries were elected to the HRC. The Canadian representative was also elected as one of the three Vice-Presidents of this important body situated in Geneva. The US did not seek election to be one of the forty-seven country-members. Washington disagreed with the set-up of the new HRC which it could no longer manipulate in the name of its self-serving double standard human rights politics as it did in the former UN Commission.

On March 4, 2009, H.E. Miguel D'Escota Bockmann, President of the United Nations General Assembly addressed one of the HRC sessions. Among other points, he declared that "...I want to call your attention to the plight of the five Cuban heroes who are still being held in preposterous conditions and serving unheard jail sentences for having denounced and provided pertinent information concerning terrorist activities being planned in the U.S. by Cuban expatriates against their former Motherland with the support of U.S. authorities. We are very hopeful about meaningful and credible change being brought by the new US administration. The immediate ex-incarceration of the five Cuban heroes would strengthen our confidence that the promised change is for real."

Canada attended this HRC session, not only as a member, but with the added responsibility of its representative sitting as one of the Vice-Presidents. Has Canada done anything to indicate to the new US Administration that it should act on the above statement by the UN authority?

According to one of the US Cuban Five lawyers Thomas C. Goldstein (who teaches at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools), since March 6, 2009 a record number of 12 amicus curiae briefs have been filed with the US Supreme Court. These documents are in support of the Cuban Five legal team's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for a review to be heard on April 6, 2009. Amicus curiae is a legal Latin phrase, literally translated as "friend of the court", that refers to someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it. The information may be a legal opinion in the form of a brief, a testimony that has not been solicited by any of the parties, or a learned treatise on a matter that bears on the case. The decision whether to admit the information lies with the discretion of the court. This information regarding the Cuban Five Amicus curia is available on, one of whose co-founders is attorney Goldstein.

Never before has the US Supreme Court received so many amicus curia for the revision of a trial. The petitioners include an impressive list of ten Nobel laureates, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, many US and other bar associations and human rights organizations, hundreds of parliamentarians, several ex-Presidents including two former Presidents and three current Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament. However, the US official media have virtually blacked-out this information regarding the unprecedented outpouring of support for the appeal to the US Supreme Court. In any "normal" circumstance, the record number of amicus curia would have made headlines or at least treated with important reporting in the mainstream media. On the contrary, virtually not a word was uttered or printed. It is thus quite possible that the Canadian mainstream media is not aware of this historical juridical event; the media here is largely dependent on U.S. sources for the news taking place in the US. The objective of my personal letter to Canadian media is to provide an opportunity to rectify this black-out. I believe that the Canadian media have to show its independence with regards to its U.S. counter-parts. Nor can the Canadian government idly stand by as a Vice-President of the UN HRC. I believe that Canada cannot blindly follow the policies of the US on international issues. This is the reason for sending a copy of this letter, in my own name as a citizen, to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and to Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon. I would like to take the opportunity to remind the Canadian government and media that in 2008 fifty-six deputies in the Canadian Parliament formally made a request to the US authorities to release the Cuban Five, a demand of which the Canadian government was made aware.

- Arnold August, from Montreal, is an author specializing in Cuba, a member of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five and the Comite Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5 of the Table de Concertation de Solidarite Quebec-Cuba.

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