CubaBrief: Silent vigil carried out at Cuban Embassy on February 20th, others organizing events in Miami on Feb 23 at 3pm for OZT and at FIU on Feb 24 for BTTR

Last night on February 20, 2020 human rights activists gathered outside of the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC in a silent vigil for justice to remember Orlando Zapata Tamayo killed by the Castro regime on February 23, 2010 while on hunger strike, the four members of Brothers to the Rescue shot down by Castro regime MiGs on February 24, 1996, while Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29) were in two planes engaged in a search and rescue flight for rafters.

Others carried photos of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá martyred by the Castro regime in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The Center for a Free Cuba obtained a permit from the Washington DC Metro Police to hold the vigil.

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Other activities for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and  Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario Manuel de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, the four Brothers to the Rescue martyrs. The silent vigil ended with a prayer by Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart.

The following are not CFC activities, but we wish them well, and recommend that our friends and members attend the activities.

On Sunday, February 23 at 3:00pm, the time Orlando Zapata Tamayo died, there will be a vigil at the Bay of Pigs Monument (Torch) on Cuban Memorial Boulevard  located at 806 SW 13th AveMiami, FL 33135. Details on the vigil were announced on WWFE 830 AM. by Mercedes Perdigón of Exilio Unido in an interview with Carlos Santana.

On Monday, February 24, at 3:00pm friends and families of Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario Manuel de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, and members of the FIU community will gather and hold a vigil to remember them and silently demand justice 24 years after the shoot down. The vigil will take place at Florida International University ( University Park campus) located at 11200 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33199 at the main fountain next to the Main Library and Student Union. The silent vigil take place start at 3:21pm and end at 3:27pm, the times the two Brothers to the Rescue planes were destroyed by missiles launched from Castro’s MiGs killing Armando, Carlos, Mario, and Pablo. This vigil has been taking place at FIU annually since 1996.

Below are excerpts from reports by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown and the February 23, 2010 killing of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

IACHR,  September 29, 1999

REPORT Nº 86/99CASE 11.589
September 29, 1999

I.          SUMMARY

1.         On 25 February 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission” or “the Inter-American Commission”) received several complaints brought against the Republic of Cuba (hereinafter “the State,” “the Cuban State,” or “Cuba”) according to which a MiG-29 military aircraft belonging to the Cuban Air Force (FAC) downed two unarmed civilian light airplanes belonging to the organization “Brothers to the Rescue.”[1] According to a report issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the incidents occurred on 24 February 1996 at 3:21 p.m. and 3:27 p.m., respectively, in international airspace. The air-to-air missiles fired by the MiG-29 destroyed the civilian light aircraft, immediately killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). The complaint concludes with the Commission being requested to begin proceedings in accordance with Articles 32 et seq. of its Regulations and to declare Cuba responsible for failing to comply with its international obligations contained in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (hereinafter “the Declaration” or “the American Declaration”) for violating the right to life and the right to a fair trial as set forth in Articles I and XVIII of said international instrument.

          2.          After receiving several complaints regarding the same incident and persons, the Commission combined them, as provided for in Article 40(2) of its Regulations, as file Nº 11.589.[2] Thus, the petitioners in the case at hand are the direct relatives of the victims (Marlene Alejandre, Marlene Victoria Alejandre, Mirta Costa, Osvaldo Costa, Miriam de la Peña, Mario de la Peña, and Eva Barbas), Dr. Haydeé Marín (Institute of Human and Labor Rights at Florida International University), Dr. Claudio Benedí (Cuban Patriotic Council), and Mr. José J. Basulto (Brothers to the Rescue).

          3.          Since the start of proceedings in this case on 7 March 1996, the Cuban State has not replied to the Commission’s repeated requests for information regarding the admissibility and merits of the matter. Therefore, based on an exhaustive analysis of the legal and factual grounds and in accordance with Article 42 of its Regulations,[3] the Commission believes that the complaint meets the formal requirements for admissibility as set forth in the Regulations and concludes that the Cuban State is responsible for violating the rights enshrined in the American Declaration as reported by the petitioners in their complaint of 25 February 1996.[4]. Based on the analysis and conclusions of this report, the Commission recommends that the Cuban State conduct an exhaustive investigation into the incidents in question, prosecute and punish the individuals responsible for the different violations described herein, and make adequate and timely amends to the victims’ direct relatives, including the payment of fair compensatory indemnification.

Full report available here]

IACHR, February 26, 2010

N° 22/10


Washington, D.C., February 26, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deeply regrets and condemns the death of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died of starvation after 85 days on a hunger strike. The IACHR expresses its condolences and solidarity with his next of kin.

Mr. Zapata Tamayo was one of the victims in IACHR Case No. 12.476, in which the Inter-American Commission recommended to the State of Cuba that it order the immediate and unconditional release of all the victims in the case and overturn their convictions, inasmuch as they were based on laws that impose unlawful restrictions on their human rights. The report on the merits in this case, approved on October 21, 2006, also recommended that the State adopt the measures necessary to adapt its laws, procedures, and practices to international human rights laws; redress the victims and their next of kin for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages suffered as a result of the violations of the American Declaration established in the report; and adopt the measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of similar acts. The State of Cuba has not complied with the IACHR’s recommendations.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was detained in March 2003, as part of a crackdown by the State of Cuba against human rights activists and independent journalists. Between April 3 and 7, 2003, the more than 70 individuals who had been detained in March were subject to proceedings that lasted no longer than a day and were held behind closed doors, with access barred to reporters, diplomats, and the general public. At the end of the proceedings, they were sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. At that time, Mr. Zapata Tamayo was sentenced to three years in prison. 

Subsequently, Mr. Zapata Tamayo was sentenced in Cuba to additional prison terms, due to his dissident opinions. According to news accounts, he had reportedly been sentenced to 36 years in prison. Information received by the IACHR indicates that Mr. Zapata Tamayo had been subjected to torture and inhumane treatment in the Kilo 8 prison.

Meanwhile, the IACHR also received information that, following the death of Mr. Zapata Tamayo, at least 50 dissidents reportedly were detained or forced to remain in their houses to prevent them from attending the wake and funeral.

The Commission reiterates that restrictions to political rights and to freedom of expression and the dissemination of thought; the lack of elections; and the lack of independence of the judiciary create a permanent situation in Cuba in which the fundamental rights of its citizens are violated. The Commission once again urges the State to carry out the reforms that are necessary in accordance with its international human rights obligations.  

The IACHR would like to reiterate to the State of Cuba the recommendation that it order the immediate and unconditional release of all the victims in Case 12.476 and overturn their convictions, inasmuch as they were based on laws that impose unlawful restrictions on their human rights. The IACHR also urges the State of Cuba to adapt its legal procedures to applicable international standards for due process, so that those who go before the courts for a determination of their rights and responsibilities can count on the minimum legal guarantees to be able to exercise their defense.          

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

Useful links

Case 12.476, Merits Report