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    Defense lawyers are scarce in Cuba

    Defense lawyers are scarce in Cuba

    HAVANA, Cuba – May 5 (Jaime Leygonier / www.cubanet.org) – Lawyers
    avoid–and even refuse–to defend those accused by the government, since
    they consider it useless and even dangerous for themselves to act as
    defense lawyers.

    Relatives of those arrested state that whoever seeks the services of a
    defense attorney for those charged with “social dangerousness” and,
    above all, political causes, must run from law firm to law firm until
    they find an attorney who will accept the contract.

    This situation has the result of increasing the number of those who are
    prosecuted without a defense–not even a public defender–during the
    trial. On the other hand, there are virtually no appeals having defense
    attorneys to fulfill their assignment. The judges grant them a few
    minutes, and their performance as defense attorneys frustrates those
    they defend.

    In Cuba, attorneys are barred from practicing their profession
    independently. They may only attend to their clients in state offices
    called “people’s law firms” where the state appropriates the bulk of the
    legal fees, paid according to a schedule established by the same state.
    For each case handled, the attorney receives only 15 Cuban pesos.

    Attorneys are lacking cars, time, respect, and civil rights for their
    defendants. Those charged are judged quickly and without procedural rights.

    The defense attorney feels pressured not to go “too far” in his defense,
    something that’s obvious when, in the enforcement of an order, massive
    round-ups of self-employed workers or young people accused of “social
    dangerousness” take place.

    “The prosecution doesn’t have to prove the crime with documentary
    evidence,” an attorney points out. “The word of a policeman is enough,
    which is based many times on reports from the Committee for the Defense
    of the Revolution, without corroboration of its veracity. The watchful
    eye of a male neighbor or the gossips of a female neighbor are enough to
    destroy a life.”


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