Friday, March 29, 2013

The Case of Joachim Løvschall: Danish Student Gunned Down by Soldier in Cuba

Joachim Løvschall, a Danish student studying Spanish at the University of Havana gunned down by an AK-47 wielding Cuban guard as he walked home on the evening of March 29,1997. The body remained hidden for days. The shooter was never identified. Ten years after his son's extrajudicial execution, Christian Løvschall spoke at a parallel forum in Geneva Switzerland about what had happened. Below is the statement he made in 2007 at the United Nations.

 Joachim Løvschall

The Case of Joachim

Ladies and Gentlemen.

First of all thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you at this meeting here today, where I shall be talking to you about the terrible loss of our son Joachim on the 29th of March 1997, when you have listened to what I have to say I trust you will realize that 1997 will always stay as an "Annus Horibili" in the mind of our family.

To give you an understanding of our feelings and also of what made Joachim travel to Cuba, I will, as a start tell you something about the background of my boy and family.

 We are a quite international oriented family, my wife being a Norwegian national, the children and myself Danish. Our youngest daughter, however, is adopted from India, and joined us in 1978 when she was 3 years old. For about 8 years, in the eighties, we lived in the Middle East, where the children attended international schools. Before going abroad, my wife was for 12 years employed by a traveling agency, which resulted in numerous tours, also for the children, to destinations all over Europe. Furthermore we have hosted 2 international students - Each for a 1/2 a year period - in 1972 and 1974. In my present job I have for the last 17 years been traveling to more than 70 countries all over the world, having thereby established good contacts and, must I say, good friendships. Fortunately the friendships do not exclude anybody because of racial or political differences. On top of this our oldest daughter and two grandchildren are working and living in Norway.

And why do I want to enlighten you on this? My reason is that I want you to understand that Joachim was very much focused on international human relations and enjoyed making friendships across borders. You should know that he spoke seven different languages, and that the purpose of him going to Cuba was to learn the Spanish language. He did so well that he learned that language.

 In 3 months moving from no knowledge to almost speaking Spanish fluently and, as mentioned, all picked up during the 3 months he lived in Havana.

Although the killing took place on the 29th of March, we only came to know about it on the 6th of April - I.E. after 8 days were we had the feeling that the Cuban authorities were unwilling to inform anything about the incident. Only because of good relations with Spanish speaking friends in other Latin American countries did we succeed in getting into contact with the family with whom Joachim stayed and the repeated message from their side was that they could reveal nothing, but that the situation had turned out very bad and that we had to come to Cuba as soon as possible. At the same time all contacts to the responsible authorities turned out negatively, and worst of all we really felt nobody in Havana dared take contact to the police.

Only after continued pressure from our side on the Cuban embassy in Copenhagen, things suddenly changed and the sad information was given to us by our local police on the evening of the 6th of April.

We are, however, 100% convinced that had we not made use of our own contact and had we not continued our pressure on the embassy in Copenhagen, we might have faced a situation where Joachim would have been declared a missing person, a way out the Cuban authorities have been accused of applying in similar cases.

 So where does that leave us:

 We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why

Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.

What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.

As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.

The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story? 

 Finally the why? Why would somebody kill a fine young man who was serious about his studies and without absolutely and criminal record whatsoever?

 Why is it that you are left with the terrible feeling that the truth has never been told, and why is it that the authorities are backing out and covering up?

Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?

It is very difficult to understand that in a country working hard to attract tourists from abroad - many of whom are European non-Spanish speaking people - At the same time does not warn you about their special security rules and regulations as well as the non presence of signs of warnings around a building like the Ministry of Interior. I mean if, as a host, I allow somebody into my house, is it then not my responsibility to inform this somebody about the house rules and in case of misunderstandings warn them instead of shooting them?

To me such circumstances demonstrates the complete irresponsibility from the Cuban authorities side, and for sure may cause the reason for future incidents.

We lost our 27 years old boy, and whatever is done from the day he passed away, will never bring him back.

I have been raised in the faith that you are judged by your actions, and I do feel that this should apply to everybody - including a government in power, and you can't help being left with the feeling, that in Cuba the government and the authorities are above any law, resulting in disrespect and contempt for human life.

 I did visit Cuba twice, and from my observations I can only add that I do feel sorry for a people living their lives under a regime not respecting fundamental human rights.

All honor to my son, Joachim, he was a good son and we still miss him very much.

Thank you for listening to me.

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