The Spanish Chamber’s Permanent Deputation Approves a Controversial Digital Decree

On Wednesday, the Spanish chamber’s Permanent Deputation approved the controversial digital decree, which grants the Spanish government the possibility of “shutting down” the Internet and intervening on servers and social media platforms without a court order in the case of exceptional circumstances: “public order, public safety and national security.” The decree was approved with the favorable votes of the Spanish “Socialist” party (PSOE), Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (C’s) and the abstention of Unidas Podemos (UP).

Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez promoted the decree as a response to coordinated actions by the civil disobedience platform Tsunami Democràtic in the aftermath of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Catalan leaders jailed over the 2017 independence referendum. The decree; however, will also affect the rest of the Spanish state.

ERC and JxCat accused PSOE of promoting a “totalitarian” measure such as those implemented in countries like China, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

MP Montse Bassa (ERC) warned that her group will bring this measure to European Courts and criticized “the repressive strategy of the PSOE.” Bassa also accused the Spanish State of chasing “political dissidence” and freedom of expression with an “arbitrary system that allows censorship and coercion of rights and freedoms.”

MP Laura Borràs (JxCat) denounced that the decree is a “digital coup” and accused the State of being “technophobic […] the Spanish State will have nothing to envy authoritarian states in the matter of the Internet.” Borràs also warned that the Catalan government would take the decree-law to the Spanish Constitutional Court due to the fact that the initiative “is a serious misuse of power.”

The pro-independence party CUP also denounced the approval of the decree. The anticapitalists criticized Unidas Podemos and Catalunya en Comú Podem for negotiating the coalition government with PSOE without any democratic conditions, such as abolishing the Mordassa law or modifying the digital decree. “It is nothing more than a continuation of the repressive actions of the Spanish state against dissidence.”

The approval and enforcement of the digital decree comes at a moment when Pedro Sánchez is negotiating his investiture with the pro-independence parties ERC and JxCat.

49.3% of Catalans Are in Favor of Independence; 41.2% Against

The latest CEO poll, “Perception of the Territorial Debate in Spain 2019,” carried out throughout the Spanish State at the request of the Catalan Government and published on Thursday, shows that 49.3% of Catalans support independence, 41.2% are against it, and the rest either do not know or have not responded. Throughout the remainder of the Spanish State though, 75.8% reject independence and just 13.6% support it.

The poll also shows that 70% of Catalans support a self-determination referendum, while 21.6% oppose it. In the rest of the Spanish State, 57.3% are against it and 29.8% are in favor.

Despite the Spanish government’s opposition to a self-determination referendum taking place in Catalonia, 48.2% of (non-Catalan) Spaniards would accept Catalonia’s independence after such a vote, a figure that rises to 81.3% among Catalans.

Imprisonment of Jailed Catalan Leaders Regarding the 2017 Referendum

Some 75.2% of Catalans believe that the imprisonment of the Catalan leaders is unfair; in the rest of the Spanish State, 60.1% believe it is justified.

The poll also tackled the issue of how people think the current conflict between Spain and Catalonia should be resolved.

Solution to the Conflict

Some 75% of Catalans support a political solution; in the rest of the Spanish State, 45.2% do so.

Dialogue Without Limits

Some 42.4% of Catalans demand dialogue and negotiation “without limits,” and 38.1% want it within the limits of the existing Spanish Constitution. In contrast, 48.4% of respondents from the rest of the Spanish State want the dialogue to be limited to the framework of the Constitution, and only 17.2% want negotiation without limits, which is below the 26.9% that demands a hard response from the State.

Democracy

This is one of the issues that unites Catalan voters from all parties: both unionists and independents. Some 87.5% of those surveyed in Catalonia were either little or not-at-all satisfied with the Spanish democratic system.

Monarchy

The monarchy gets the support of 22% of Catalans, and 45% of the rest of Spaniards.

The CEO poll published on Thursday was based on a survey of 3,600 people across Spain, in the period between September 9 and October 7 2019.

The Council of Europe Denounces the Politicization of Spanish Justice

On Wednesday, the Council of Europe denounced the politicization of Spanish justice. The report of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the institution’s anti-corruption monitoring body, criticized the system of selection of members of the Spanish judiciary and demanded that the government of Pedro Sánchez “formalize” the publication of communications with the prosecution. The organization also demanded that the fiscal ministry act ”decisively” to advance its “autonomy, integrity and accountability.”

“GRECO concluded by saying that the country has fully implemented only two out of eleven recommendations. Eight recommendations have been partly implemented; one unimplemented.” 

GRECO looked at how Spain’s top judiciary jobs are chosen, calling for “further improvements to be made regarding the appointment system of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and top ranks of the judiciary.”

Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez was involved in controversy just before the November 10 election, when he suggested he was giving the public prosecutor instructions to extradite exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont from Belgium.

GRECO reiterated that the political authorities can never be involved in the judicial selection process.”

The Spanish Constitution states that the public prosecutor’s office should always remain independent and impartial.

The Spanish State Can Shut Down Websites Without a Court Order in Cases of “Threats to Public Order”

Since Wednesday, the Spanish government has the authority to shut down websites without a court order in cases of urgent threats to “public order, public security and national security.” This is reflected in the decree promoted by the executive led by Pedro Sánchez, which was published in the Official Spanish Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday and became effective on Wednesday.

The Spanish government is now authorized to intervene or stop servers that host social networks or websites in cases of “public disorder.” This could already be done earlier, but only with a court order. With this modification, no “prior hearing” will be necessary, and there is a risk that the government will apply it to curtail basic fundamental rights, especially in cases of political dissidents and peaceful demonstrations.

These are cases enshrined in the decree where the Spanish government is authorized to shut down websites:

a) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public order, public safety or national security.

b) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public health.

c) When the alleged infringing activity could result in serious damage to the operation of the services of emergencies, public security and civil protection.

d) When it seriously interferes with the electronic communication of other services or networks.

e) When it might be used to provoke a serious economic or operational problem for other providers or users of electronic communications networks or services or other users of the radio spectrum.

According to the text the government can also intervene in elements that necessarily accompany “the installation or deployment of a network” or “a communications service.”

In this way it opens the door to interrupt any “infrastructure for public networks of electronic communications, its associated resources or any element or level of the network or the service in order to preserve or restore public order, public security and national security.” 

Parties from across Spain call for release of Catalan leaders

Last week representatives from the pro-independence parties JxCat, ERC, PDeCAT, Demòcrates, CUP, Crida Nacional per la República, EH Bildu, BNG, Més per Mallorca, Més per Menorca and Esquerra Valenciana signed a declaration in Barcelona calling for “reaching a political agreement” with the Spanish State that recognizes the right to hold a referendum on independence, to free the Catalan political prisoners, and to allow the safe return of exiles. They also called on the international community to “promote solutions” to the conflict.

The signatories of the document regret that full democratization of the State has not been possible after Franco’s dictatorship “due to the resistance of the old structures of the regime.”

The declaration states that the sentences on the jailed Catalan leaders “have serious effects in the exercise of fundamental rights of all citizens, leaving them seriously worried.”

The notable absences from this declaration were PNB and Compromís parties. The leaders from these organizations have recently abandoned the clear defense of the right to self-determination of Catalonia and the Basque Country. In exchange, they will have more economical power and capacity of decision on some regional matters.

What to Expect after the Upcoming Independence Trial Verdict

The Independence Trial verdict on the 12 Catalan leaders is expected to be announced tomorrow Monday. Mass demonstrations and political responses are expected if they are found guilty. Here’s a guide on what to expect in the hours and days following the verdict:

Catalan Government Response

President Torra has been saying for months that he will “not accept” the decision if the Catalan leaders are found guilty. He affirms that the parliament will articulate a response based on “democracy, self-determination and human rights.” However, he has not disclosed yet what this might mean.

Protests

Pro-independence organizations such as Òmnium and ANC have already called for “mass peaceful demonstrations” once the verdict is out, such as halting vehicles, using their horns, making noise, and protesting in the streets.

The ANC is also expected to call for demonstrations in undisclosed places that they will announce a few hours before the protests take place.

Marches

ANC and Òmnium will organize “Marches for Freedom” in the next few days after the verdict is out. They will kick off from the cities of Girona, Vic, Berga, Tàrrega and Tarragona, and each route will consist of walking 100 kilometers over three days, from Wednesday to Friday. This action is inspired by the historical marches of Gandhi’s Salt March and Martin Luther King Jr’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

General strike

The Catalan trade union Intersindical-CSC has called a general strike for Friday, October 18. The student’s union Sindicat d’Estudiants has also announced a three-day strike from October 16 to October 18.

Spanish Government Response

The Spanish government may suspend Catalonia’s self-rule, depending on the response from the pro-independence camp.  Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) appears to embrace the same repressive strategy as his right-winger predecessor Mariano Rajoy (PP).