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).

President Puigdemont’s Lawyer Gonzalo Boye Accuses the Spanish State of “Attempting to Deceive Belgian Justice”

Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye accuses the Spanish State of “attempting to deceive Belgian justice” with the “orchestrated” Civil Guard police operation against the 7 CDR members imprisoned last week in order to link “terrorism” with the pro-independence movement and Presidents Torra and Puigdemont. Their aim might be to obtain the extradition of President Carles Puigdemont.

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“The strategy is clear: criminalize and then try to deceive the Belgians by ticking the box of terrorism [in the formal petition of extradition order].”

Boye’s statements came after exiled President Puigdemont accused the Spanish State of beginning a “legal war” in an attempt to obtain the Extradition Order.

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The lawfare has been brought to its fullest expression: changing them from rebels to terrorists to try to manipulate, again, the process of euro order. Because they can only find us in the way we have always followed: democracy, civility and nonviolence.”

Police Acquire New anti-Riot Equipment for this Autumn’s Demonstrations

The Mossos (Catalan police) have acquired new anti-riot equipment to use in the demonstrations which are expected in the aftermath of the announcement of the Independence Trial verdict in October.

New Equipment 

– Pepper Spray: It has never been used by Mossos. It is directly thrown into the eyes of the demonstrators, causing a strong burning feeling. Although Mossos affirms that this doesn’t cause injuries at all, several human rights organizations have pointed out that it can actually provoke serious permanent injuries, especially for those who suffer from illnesses such as asthma.

– Anti-Riot Police Fences: They are used to separate demonstrators from anti-riot police officers. The fences are 150cm high and have a platform which makes it hard for protesters to get up and jump over them. They also have doors from which anti-riot police officers can enter and leave.

– Anti-Riot Nets: These nets are reinforced with wire so that they cannot be cut. They are between 120cm and 250cm high. They are already used by the Swedish police to prevent contact between anti-riot police officers and demonstrators.

Apart from the new equipment, Mossos will continue using acoustic devices, foam balls, tear gas, batons, etc.

The announcement of the purchase of this anti-riot equipment before the announcement of the Independence Trial verdict appears to be aimed at spreading fear in Catalan society to prevent mass demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience looking for the release of the Catalan political prisoners and for the independence of Catalonia.

Whether this strategy of fear will have an effect in Catalan society is still unknown, but what is sure is that the verdict will be one of the most pivotal moments in Catalan history.

The UN Presents a Report on Human Rights Violations by Spain, to the Human Rights Council

Last Friday, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) presented its report on Spain’s human rights violations in its treatment of the jailed Catalan leaders to the Human Rights Council. 

In May, the group demanded the immediate release of jailed Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. Their investigation found that both freedom of expression and the right to demonstration and participation had been clearly violated. Likewise, the statement places the Catalan pro-independence leaders within a “peaceful political movement,” and they are in jail “for their political ideas.”

The working group also considered they should have “the right to obtain compensation and other forms of reparation in accordance with international law.”

The UNWGAD investigates arbitrary detentions which are alleged to be in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Although Spain had initially asked to participate in last Friday’s hearing, at the last minute it withdrew without further comment.

Spain’s withdrawal comes after a representative accused UNWGAD of launching a “misinformation campaign.” After last Friday’s hearing, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will assess the report and make recommendations to all the States which have committed human rights violations, including Spain, though these are not binding.

Democratic Tsunami

The Tsunami D, the Democratic Tsunami, is an initiative that was launched on social media networks on September 2 and received immediate support from all pro-independence forces and leaders. According to the initial statement, the initiative’s object is to respond to the Independence Trial verdict through non-violent civil disobedience.

The manifesto was launched on social media networks and on a website calling for people not to give up in the defense of individual and collective rights and says that for this reason a democratic, organized and determined struggle is needed, based on non-violent civil disobedience. Without any type of violence, “but with all firmness.” How it will be done and what it will consist of is still not concrete, but it said: “Self-criticism, irony, creativity, diversity, imperfection and everything that promotes a collective and transversal movement will be the tools. We do not shrink back from the discomfort that may result from the exercise of fundamental rights and social transformation. We assume it and confront it.” 

The first action of the Democratic Tsunami campaign took place on September 5, when over 15,000 banners and posters with the message “Change the state of things” appeared across the country.

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Although it is still unclear who is behind this campaign, all pro-independence forces and leaders rapidly supported the initiative: Presidents Puigdemont and Torra, Junqueras, Rovira, Aragonès, Torrent, Costa, Boya, Mauri, Paluzie, Cuixart, etc.