Honoring our Loved Ones


Chronology of Events

Feb. 24 1996
Two fighter planes, a MiG-29 and a MiG-23, of the Cuban Air Force fly out to meet three unarmed Cessna 337 aircraft piloted by Brothers to the Rescue in the Florida Straits. With the authorization of a military station on Cuban land, the MiG-29 shoots and destroys the two aircraft flown by Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario M. de la Peña, and Armando Alejandre, killing all four members onboard. The third Brothers to the Rescue plane flown by Jose Basulto escapes unharmed.
Feb. 26, 1996
The European Union issues a statement condemning the shoot down. President Clinton of the United States initiates unilateral actions against the government of Cuba: orders Congress to pass legislation to compensate the families of the victims; moves to reach an agreement on Helms-Burton; orders Radio Martí to expand its reach; orders additional restrictions on travel in the U.S. by Cuban officials; and suspends indefinitely all charter air travel from the U.S. to Cuba.
Feb. 27, 1996
The United Nations Security Council issues a statement condemning the shoot down and requests that the International Civil Aviation Organization conduct an investigation on the incident
March 2, 1996
United Nations Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright speaks at a memorial service in Miami’s Orange Bowl, where tens of thousands gather to mourn and honor the shoot down victims.
March 12, 1996
Prompted by the shoot down, the 104th United States Congress passes the Helms-Burton Act to strengthen and continue the embargo against Cuba. The law states, among other provisions, that any non-U.S. company that knowingly traffics in property in Cuba confiscated without compensation from a U.S. person can be subjected to litigation and that company's leadership can be barred from entry into the United States. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both waived the law since its enactment, and it is currently not enforced.
June 26, 1996
The United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution condemning the shoot down and the Cuban Air Force’s use of weapons against civil aircraft.
June 27, 1996
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approves a resolution expressing its condemnation of the shoot down and the illegal use of weapons against civil aircraft.
June 28, 1996
The ICAO submits a report to the United Nations Security Council titled, “Report on the Investigation Concerning the Shooting Down of Two Private Aircraft Registered in the United States of America by a Cuban Military Aircraft on February 24, 1996.” The report establishes that both downed aircraft were over international waters when the shootings took place and that the Cuban Air Force never attempted to communicate with the planes before destroying them.
Oct. 31, 1996
The Alejandre, Costa, and de la Peña families file a civil action against the Cuban Air Force and the Cuban government, using the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. (The Morales family could not participate in the lawsuit because Pablo was not a United States citizen.)
Dec. 17 1997
Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence King rules that the Cuban government must pay the Costa, de la Peña, and Alejandre families a multi-million dollar judgment for compensatory and punitive damages. However, the families are met with resistance from the Clinton administration to collect the judgment. They are unable to collect any significant potion of the funds until new legislation is enacted in Congress in 2000 allowing them to do so.
Jan. 22, 1997
Special Rapporteur for Cuba Carl-Johan Groth of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights submits a report on human rights in the Island and fundamental freedoms. In that report, the Special Rapporteur finds that the shooting of the Brothers to the Rescue planes was a premeditated act and a violation of the right to life of the four victims.
April 1997
The families travel to Geneva during the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to inform member countries and NGOs about the shoot down, testify before the Commission and obtain a condemnatory resolution from the Commission against the government of Cuba.
Jan. 20, 1999
Family members testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS about the shoot down. In the following months, the families continue to provide information to and meet with officials at the Commission.
September 29, 1999
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States issues Report No. 86/99 (Case No. 11,589) and finds the Cuban state responsible for the violation of the victims’ right to life and violation of the families’ right to justice. The Commission calls on the Cuban state to investigate the facts of the shoot down, prosecute the state agents responsible for the murders, adopt appropriate measures, and pay adequate reparation to the victims’ families.
Oct. 11, 2000
The U.S. Senate passes the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which includes provisions allowing the victims of state-sponsored terrorism to collect legal judgments. The Alejandre, Costa and de la Peña families are able to collect compensatory damages from payments owed to the Cuban government from telecommunications company AT&T. The money had been frozen in the United States because of the trade embargo.
June 8, 2001
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida convicts Cuban national, Gerardo Hernandez, of conspiracy to commit murder. A leader of the Wasp Network of Cuban spies in South Florida, Hernandez is found to have been supporting a plan to shoot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes. Five Cuban agents in total are found guilty of acting as unregistered foreign intelligence agents.
April 10-18, 2002
The families meet with the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Cuba to obtain a condemnatory response from the Commission on the Cuban government’s continued human rights violations.
Dec. 10, 2002
The families meet with Michael Chertoff, assistant attorney general, criminal division, about obtaining the indictments of the Cuban military officers responsible for the shoot down.
Aug. 21, 2003
Under the watch of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marcos Jimenez, a federal grand jury returns an indictment against one Cuban general and two Cuban Air Force pilots for carrying out the shoot down.
Feb. 24, 2005
The Alejandre, Costa and de la Peña families announce a reward for the capture of the Cuban military officials indicted in the shoot down and for information leading to further indictments or capture of other responsible parties.
Aug. 9 2005
The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturns the conviction of the five Cuban spies and calls for a new trial, citing community prejudice in Miami as an impediment to a fair trial.
Oct. 31, 2005
The Appellate Court, en banc, vacates the August 9 decision and sets new oral arguments for February 2006.
February 14, 2006
The Appellate Court, en banc, rehears the five spies’ appeals on their convictions, including Gerardo Hernandez’s conviction on conspiracy to shoot down the BTTR aircraft.
June 15, 2009
The US Supreme Court refused to review Gerardo Hernandez’s case to appeal his conviction of conspiracy in the shoot down.

Throughout the years since the shoot down, the families’ repeated requests for meetings with Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to pursue indictments of the responsible parties have been ignored.