Sunday, October 8, 2017

Omar Pernet Hernández: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, starting when I was turning 19."

Omar Pernet Hernández Requiescat In Pace

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017
 Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. Beginning in 1965 at age 18 for his rebellious nature and love of freedom he was imprisoned for the first time in Cuba. Years later in an interview he would sum up his life in Cuba: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, when I was going to turn 19 years old."

Representing a delegation of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, I had the honor of accompanying Omar Pernet along with his niece, Bertha Antúnez and Aramis Perez to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2009 to give testimony there on the human rights situation in Cuba.

Bertha Antúnez, Omar Pernet Hernández and John Suarez, UN Human Rights Council
We arrived in Spain, a few days beforehand, and spent a few days preparing and gathering testimony. Omar Pernet opened the doors of his modest apartment, and gave us a place to stay. Over the course of those days we talked about what had happened to him in Cuba. During his last recent imprisonment he described how doctors engaged in malpractice against him following a car accident while he was being transferred from one prison to another that left him crippled. The video is embedded below followed by a translated excerpt of the interview.

Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.
INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"
OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." 
Omar Pernet Hernández was 72 years old when he passed away, a victim of cancer. He had spent 22 years in Castro's prisons for defying the communist regime and lived in forced exile for the final nine years of his life. He had been jailed in four different instances beginning with being sent to a forced labor camp for refusing military service, then jailed for trying to first leave Cuba, then jailed again for "enemy propaganda" when he denounced prison conditions, and finally sentenced to 25 years in prison for gathering signatures for Project Varela, a petition drive to reform Cuban laws to bring it in line with international human rights standards. He served five years of that sentence and was forcibly exiled to Spain unable to ever return to Cuba.

Regis Iglesias Ramirez thanked Omar "for above all the struggle for human rights that always united us."
The Castro regime claims that "[o]ur achievements in matters of penal justice and crime prevention are well recognized" is unfortunately not true. Nevertheless the truth slips out sometimes and one such time was in the pages of The Telegraph on February 23, 2008 where the British newspaper offered a succinct description of prison conditions in Cuba: "regular beatings, humiliation and arbitrary punishment with long periods of solitary confinement in cramped cells with cement beds." International human rights organizations are barred from visiting the island and even the International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to prisons in Cuba for over 40 years, but what has emerged is evidence of widespread torture.

Omar Pernet Hernández spent a life time defending human rights in Cuba both in and out of the island. He paid a high price: prison, torture, and forced exile but never backed down or looked back with regret. He gave his testimony both as victim and witness to the horrors of the Cuban prison system under the Castro brothers.

Bertha Antúnez, Omar Pernet Hernández and Aramis Perez at the UNHRC

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