Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, human rights lawyer who represents prominent Venezuelan opposition leaders and political prisoners including Leopoldo López and Juan Guaido, addressed the 11th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy — see quotes below.

For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, photos, livestream, and more, click here.

11th Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Main Event, Tuesday, March 26, 2019

To watch the video in the original Spanish click here

On arrest and imprisonment of Dr. Eduardo Cardet:

“Dr. Cardet was arrested in front of his house and in public, by various non-uniformed men; without identifying themselves, acting with violence, without presenting a court order, and without indicating the purpose of the arrest.”

“At the police station, he was beaten, subjected to isolation, without the possibility to communicate with anyone and was not heard by a judge in order to determine the legitimacy of the arrest.”

“The conditions of detention were characterized by periods of isolation, the prohibition of family and priest visits, acts of torture, threatening, aggression by other prisoners, unhealthy conditions, punishments because of the wife’s public statements, the deterioration of general health conditions due to the lack of medical assistance…”

“Today, Eduardo Cardet still remains under arbitrary arrest in Cuba and his wife and children are being constantly intimidated and harassed by Cuban state agents.”

On the need for action:

“It is unbearable that there is an empty chair in a family dining room, an empty chair at a doctor’s office and an empty chair in the Cuban opposition political leadership. But how many empty chairs have been seen throughout 60 years, and how many more will exist if we do not act.”

Juan Carlos Gutiérrez at 2019 Geneva Summit

Full Prepared Remarks, in English:

First of all, I express our gratitude for this opportunity. My name is Juan Carlos Gutierrez; President of the World Jurist Association’s Human Rights Institute and Partner at the law firm Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo. I am here, representing Eduardo Cardet, his family and the Christian Liberation Movement.

Last year, Sophia Höpperger, a young student, presented the case of Dr. Cardet before you, surely with better words than I could transmit. Today, Eduardo Cardet still remains under arbitrary arrest in Cuba and his wife and children are being constantly intimidated and harassed by Cuban state agents.

We must remember that Eduardo Cardet is a father, a doctor who treats the ill and as well, the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement. Particularly, this association proposes a political, democratic and peaceful change in Cuba.  Today, Dr. Cardet has been arbitrarily detained for 846 days.

As a consequence of speaking against the Castro regime, Dr. Cardet has been detained on several occasions. Conducting his work as a political activist abroad, he took the occasion of the death of Fidel Castro to comment in a radio interview, saying “that he – Fidel Castro – was excessively hated and rejected by the people of Cuba.”  Because of this, Dr. Cardet’s wife was detained for hours and warned of the future arrest of her husband, immediately upon his return to the country.

Dr. Cardet was arrested in front of his house and in public, by various non-uniformed men; without identifying themselves, acting with violence, without presenting a court order and, moreover, without indicating the purpose of the arrest. After this event, at the police station, he was beaten, subjected to isolation, without the possibility to communicate with anyone and was not heard by a judge in order to determine the legitimacy of the arrest committed.

Dr. Cardet was accused of resisting the authorities, which proves that indeed, he was arrested without any legal reason. The trial began on March 3rd, 2017. The Cuban prosecutor’s office presented 6 witnesses, 3 police officers who arrested Dr. Cardet and 3 other witnesses with contradictory testimony who had not been present during the arrest. The defence was allowed to present only 3 witnesses whose testimonies were not taken into account (or considered) by the judge. Under those conditions, Dr. Cardet was sentenced to serve 3 years in prison.

On several occasions, the judge denied Dr. Cardet’s freedom during the trial. The people that witnessed the arrest, stated privately, that in fact, Dr. Cardet had not acted with violence, but on the other hand, the officers that arrested him, indeed acted quickly and violently. 

An appeal was presented, (but nonetheless) on May 18th, 2017 the condemnatory sentence was confirmed.

When the defense insisted and solicited his freedom, it was rejected by the judge with the argument: “he cannot be reincorporated into the society because he didn’t understand the grave consequences of his actions.” These are the overpowering consequences of soliciting in Cuba, the right to live under democratic rules, to express ideas and thoughts, of being the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement and of stating: “one Cuban, one vote”.

This seems absurd, but in places such as Cuba, Venezuela or countries with authoritarian regimes, this is the basis for unjust prison time and worse. The case of Dr. Cardet is the same as that of Venezuelan prisoner of conscience Leopoldo Lopez.

As with Dr. Cardet, the conditions of Leopoldo Lopez’s detention where characterized by periods of isolation, the prohibition of family and priest visits, acts of torture, threatening, aggression by other prisoners, unhealthy conditions, punishments because of the wife’s public statements, the deterioration of general health conditions due to the lack of medical assistance… And under all of these same circumstances, Dr. Cardet spends his days in the “Cuba Si” jail.

In this case, without any doubt, Dr. Cardet’s human rights are violated. This has been expressly recognized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and by Amnesty international which has labelled Dr. Cardet as a “prisoner of conscience”. 

We must highlight the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in response to the extraordinary work accomplished by U.N Watch – certifying that this is an arbitrary detention and demanding that the Cuban state immediately release Dr. Cardet, compensate him, and modify the Cuban law in a manner consistent with the international treaties of human rights protection.  This demand is not an option for the Cuban government, but an obligation for the state to set him free.

We do observe a behaviour pattern of persecution against Dr. Cadet, his family and other members of the Christian Liberation Movement. It is impossible not to mention the murder of Oswaldo Paya, or the recent increase of persecution against Iran Almaguer on March 8th, who has been threatened: “the same as Dr. Cadet will happen to you, or worse” or the police registry in Yadelis Melchor’s house, both of them being members of the movement.

Today, just as Sophia said a year ago, we still have an empty chair. It is unbearable that as well, there is an empty chair in a family dining room, an empty chair at a doctor’s office and an empty chair in the Cuban opposition political leadership. With the effort done by UN Watch, his family, the movement and with the support of all of us, I am convinced that Dr. Cardet will be accompanying us next year (and there won’t be an empty chair anymore). This would be marvellous, fantastic, but how many empty chairs have been seen throughout 60 years in the name of the Cuban revolution?