Remembering Michael Ratner by the great Cuban Freedom Fighter, Ricardo Alarcon

He came to Cuba often. The last time was in February 2015, on the
occasion of the International Book Fair in which the Spanish
edition of “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with
Murder” was presented. It was the result of painstaking
research and more than ten years demanding access from relevant
authorities to official documents jealously hidden.
The work of Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith proved beyond
doubt that the murder of Ernesto Guevara was a war crime
committed by the US government and its Central Intelligence
Agency, a crime that does not have a statute of limitations,
although the authors are on the loose in Miami and flaunt their
cowardly misdeed.

We met again in July on the occasion of the reopening of the
Cuban Embassy in Washington. We were far from imagining that we
would not meet again. Michael Ratner looked healthy and showed
the optimism and joy that always accompanied him. On that
occasion we celebrated that the Cuban Five anti-terrorist Heroes
had returned home and also the fact that President Obama had had
no choice but to admit the failure of Washington’s
aggressive policy against Cuba.

Michael was always in solidarity with the Cuban people since as a
very young person he joined the contingents of the Venceremos
Brigade. That solidarity remained unwavering at all times. His
participation in the legal battle for the freedom of our
comrades, including the “amicus” he presented to
the Supreme Court on behalf of ten Nobel Prize winners, was
decisive.

A tireless fighter, for him no cause was alien. He stood always
on the side of the victims and faced with courage, even at the
risk of his life, the oppressors who dominated that judicial
system. He also did it with rigor, integrity and love. More than
a brilliant legal professional, he was a passionate fighter for
justice.He was present in 1968 at the Columbia University strike
before completing his studies, and fought racial discrimination
together with the NAACP. Soon after graduating he represented the
victims of the brutal repression at the Attica prison. Thus he
began a remarkable career –impossible to describe in just
one article– which knew no borders: Nicaragua, Haiti,
Guatemala, Palestine, a never ending list.

When nobody did, he undertook the defense of the hostages in the
illegal naval base in Guantanamo. He convened more than 500
lawyers to do so –also for free– and achieved an
unprecedented legal victory with a decision by the Supreme Court
recognizing the rights of the prisoners.

Many other cases absorbed his time and energy, working in a team,
without necessarily appearing in the foreground. He did not
hesitate, however, to legally prosecute powerful characters like
Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush whose
“impeachment” he tried very hard to obtain.

He also accused Nelson Rockefeller, when he was governor, and
more recently Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He published
books and essays in favor of legality and human rights. He was
considered one of the best American lawyers and chaired the
National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights
and founded Palestine Rights. He combined his work as a litigator
with university teaching at Columbia and Yale and helped train
future jurists able to follow his example.

He was the main defender of Julian Assange and Wikileaks in the
United States. An insuperable paradigm of a generation that aimed
for the stars, he was an inseparable part of all their battles
and will remain so until victory always.

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