Two Cuban nationals, whose husbands are serving lengthy prison sentences in the USA, have been denied temporary visas allowing them to visit their husbands for the ninth time.
Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva’s husbands are part of a group known as the “Cuban Five” or “Miami Five”. René González and Gerardo Hernández have been imprisoned since 1998. They were found guilty of “acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government” and related charges.
In August 2005, the convictions of all the Cuban Five were overturned by an appeals court and a retrial was ordered, on the ground that pervasive hostility toward pro-Castro Cubans in Miami (where the trial was held) was prejudicial to the accused.
This decision was reversed on 9 August 2006 by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on a finding that no such prejudice had been shown in the selection of the trial jury.
Adriana Pérez’s latest application was rejected in January 2009 due to her status as “non-eligible” under the US Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. This legislation restricts the “issuance of visas to non-immigrant’s from countries that are state sponsors of international terrorism.”
Olga Salanueva’s most recent application was refused on the grounds that she was deported from the US in November 2000. She has been told that she is now permanently ineligible for a visa.
Although some Cuban relatives in the case of all five prisoners have been granted visiting visas, they have experienced considerable delays ranging from a couple of months to two years before learning their applications were successful.
Prior to her deportation in 2000, during René González’s trial, Olga Salanueva had been living legally in the USA . She was subsequently granted a visa to visit her husband in March 2002, which was revoked on 23 April 2002, shortly before her trip.
In 2002, Adriana Pérez obtained a visa to visit her husband but was detained upon arrival in the USA and expelled 11 hours later.
The US authorities have denied successive visa applications from both women over the course of seven years. The reasons cited for the denials are based on claims that both women are threats to national security. Yet neither woman has faced charges in connection with such claims, nor has any credible evidence been produced to substantiate the allegation.
Over the years, the grounds cited for denying temporary visas has varied, highlighting an inconsistency in the authorities’ reasoning for prohibiting the women’s visits to their husbands.
Amnesty International has repeatedly raised the issue with the US authorities since 2002 because it believes that denying the men visits from their wives is unnecessarily punitive and contrary to standards for humane treatment of prisoners and states’ obligations to protect family life.
The organization has said that it believes that this deprivation is particularly harsh given the length of the men’s sentences (René González has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and Gerardo Hernández to life imprisonment) and the questions that have been raised about the fairness of the men’s convictions.
Amnesty International has urged that these restrictions be reviewed, drawing the US government’s attention to international standards that stress the importance of the family and the right of all prisoners to maintain contact with their families and to receive visits.
The organization said that in the case of prisoners whose families live outside the USA, indefinite or even permanent denial of visits from the prisoner’s immediate family is a severe deprivation to the individual.
Amnesty International is calling on the US government to grant temporary visas to the two women for visitation purposes as soon as new applications are made.