Blockade in court

International Tribunal in Brussels on US policy against Cuba and its consequences

A crime against human and international law that has gone unpunished for more than 60 years will finally come before an international court in Brussels on Thursday. The two-day tribunal in the Belgian capital is about the longest and most extensive economic, trade and financial blockade ever imposed against a people. However, even after the verdict is handed down, the perpetrators will continue to evade responsibility for the deaths of thousands and the endangerment of the lives of millions of people and will be able to continue their criminal activities. Because the US government is in the dock. Washington has ignored all 31 nearly unanimous UN General Assembly votes since 1992 calling for an end to US sanctions against Cuba. Although the tribunal is more symbolic, organizers hope that the hearing and verdict at EU headquarters could be more than a moral appeal and help raise awareness of global opposition to the US blockade.

Although the results are not legally binding, they could become a “call and prelude to a broad political and legal campaign,” said the chairman of the Cuban Institute for the Friendship of Peoples (ICAP), Fernando González, in Havana on Friday, welcoming the initiative of European and US American unions, legal associations and activists. The protocols of the evidence, the witness statements and the judge’s verdict are important working materials for the argument “in the fight against the genocidal policies of the USA,” he said. Brussels is important as a conference location because all EU member states are affected by the consequences of the extraterritorial extension of the US blockade to third countries.

Chaired by international lawyer Norman Paech, a five-judge panel will hear numerous witnesses and examine evidence about the impact of the blockade on the people of Cuba as well as people and companies in other parts of the world. Paech is supported by the Italian commercial law expert Simone Dioguardi, the Portuguese administrative lawyer João Ricardo Duarte, the Greek constitutional law professor Dimitris Kaltsonis and the US human rights lawyer and constitutional lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. The Belgian lawyer and chairman of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Jan Fermon, acts as chief prosecutor. In addition to victims of the blockade from Cuba, witnesses include the former Danish Foreign Minister and Chairman of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, the Spanish MEP and former President of the EU Parliament Miguel Ángel Martínez, the journalists Pascual Serrano (Rebelión) and José Manzaneda ( Cuba Información), the Swiss doctor and President of Medicuba Europa, Franco Caravalli, as well as representatives of European and US solidarity organizations. In addition to the blockade, the consequences of Cuba’s inclusion on a US list of countries allegedly sponsoring terrorism are a key issue.

Well-known personalities welcomed the tribunal even before it began. “The crimes of the USA against Cuba must be brought to justice,” demanded Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. The blockade is “a form of genocide” aimed at provoking an uprising and coup by creating “a situation of hunger, fear and distress” among the population, explained former UN Human Rights Council expert Alfred -Maurice de Zayas. He described US policy towards Cuba as an “act of hybrid warfare.” Anyone who runs the blockade against Cuba, whether as a member of the US government or of institutions that support it, can be described as a “war criminal.” “They are, but there is no real international criminal court” to judge these crimes, said de Zayas, justifying his support for the tribunal in Brussels.