SUMMARY PROCEEDINGS ACCOUNT OVER 50% OF TRIALS IN MUNICIPAL COURTS
Prisoners Defenders Report, 17 July 2021
How peaceful demonstrators are being judged in Cuba:
Trials by Direct Attestation, the summary trial’s expedited version by which they are being tried these Days
After the thousands of arrests that have taken place against demonstrators since 11 July 2021, the Cuban government has officially announced that it will soon (96 working hours) bring charges and defendants before the municipal courts by means of the Atestado Directo (Direct Attestation). It is so called because it moves from the police investigation, without prosecution or trial process, to the oral hearing. It is the police, the police instructor -there is no investigating judge in Cuba, a figure that was abolished by Fidel Castro- and not the public prosecutor's office, who controls the process from beginning to end. The objective pursued is to constitute "a method and a way, agile and expeditious, to give legal course to the matters that are processed within the summary procedure in the municipal courts". In other words, it is the summary procedure, which raises immediacy and the lack of effective defence and due process to the nth degree.
Prisoners Defenders' Legal Opinion on the procedure concludes that the application of the procedure flagrantly violates the guarantee of Due Process established in articles 94 and 95 of the Constitution, as well as in international law, and the right to Effective Defence, in the procedure and in subsequent stages.
The rights to appoint a defence counsel, to communicate with family members and relatives for the collection and presentation of evidence, as the presentation of evidence by the accused is not guaranteed, and the violation of the principle of publicity are all eliminated from this procedure, characterising a lightning process, without communication to the interested parties and behind closed doors. It is analogous to the "accusatio" process of Ancient Rome.
The procedure is initiated between the police and the judge, who together set the hearing within 24 hours of a meeting -or phone call- without even the presence of a lawyer, the defendant or prosecutor, and therefore without the defendant knowing the charges when the hearing is set and up to a few minutes before it. It takes between 48 and 96 hours in most cases from the time the police start the "investigation" to the moment of the trial.
The hearing normally takes place within 24 hours after such a meeting, where the prosecutor is invited to participate, but is not obliged to attend or to file an indictment. The judge in these cases triples his functions: he is prosecutor, tribunal and defender in one person.
By legal definition, expressed in the Criminal Procedure Law (LPP) from article 359 to 383, clarified and extended by the Instruction 238 of the Supreme Court, neither the accused nor the defence (if any, but this is accessory in this procedure) have neither real and effective access to the investigative file, nor is it guaranteed either before or after to be able to present evidences. Only the defence will be able to leaf through the file minutes before the hearing, in the presence of police officers who are guarding the file and who can intimidate the lawyer.
The Law of Criminal Procedure in Cuba allows this process for accusations composed of several crimes with a sentence of 1 year or less, regardless of whether the sum of all the crimes is, for example, 5 or more years.
THE DIRECT ATTESTATION IN CUBA EXPLAINED BRIEFLY: POLICE, NOT JUDICIAL, PROCESS