Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unprecedented legal win for independent lawyers

Posted on Monday, 06.13.11

Unprecedented legal win for independent lawyers

The victory is the first step toward registering an organization that
provides free legal advice to anyone who needs it, including dissidents

After an unprecedented battle that went all the way up to Cuba's highest
court, a group of independent lawyers has overcome the first hurdle in
registering an organization that provides legal advice to civil society,
including dissidents.

"We are not declaring victory yet, but are now preparing the second step
needed to become the sort of protectors of the people, of all the
people, without exceptions,'' Wilfredo Vallín said Monday by telephone
from Havana.

The 63-year-old lawyer accused Justice Minister María Esther Reus
González in a 2009 lawsuit of violating the country's law by refusing to
answer his bid to officially register the Cuban Juridical Association
(CJA) as a non-government organization.

Ministry officials had never before answered such requests from
government critics, making the groups technically illegal and therefore
subject to punishment for the crime of "illegal association." The
courts, controlled by the Communist Party, in turn, dismissed the few
legal challenges filed by dissidents against the government or its
officials, according to legal experts.

So Vallín was shocked as his lawsuit made its way up Cuba's legal
ladder. In April, the highest court, the Supreme Tribunal, ruled that he
had filed a document in the wrong court but allowed the case to continue.

Vallín wrote on the CJA's Web page Monday that he learned of his victory
during a visit to the ministry "in which the writer was received with
the kindness that one wishes would be extended to any Cuban who goes to
that ministry.

He posted a copy of the June 3 document issued by the Justice Ministry's
Department of Association Registries, certifying that no other group was
registered with the same name or purpose as the CJA.

With that document in hand, he can now request the association be
legally recognized and allowed to carry out its work, he told El Nuevo

The CJA describes itself as an independent group that provides free
legal advice to anyone who needs it, but it has worked with many
dissident groups. State security officials have blocked or broken up
several CJA seminars designed to teach dissidents their rights when
facing police.

"I know that for those used to making a mockery of the law, the possible
existence of a (group) of independent lawyers who demand an equal
application of the law for all is not good news," he wrote on the Web post.

He added that CJA also would assist Cubans who do not have enough money
to hire private lawyers. Almost all Cuban lawyers work for the
government, with the exception of those that work for "collective bureaus."

Vallín sued Reus González to force her ministry to answer his request
for a certificate showing that no other non-government organization was
registered with the same name or purpose as the CJA.. A court agreed to
consider his complaint and later ordered the minister to appoint lawyers
to defend her..

"Finally, after two years and two months, the Cuban Juridical
Association received the certificate that took us on an unexpected (and
undesired) march to the Supreme Tribunal of the nation," Vallín wrote

He added that he's already working on the next step — the application to
have the CJA officially recognized as Cuba's first truly independent
non-governmental organization.


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