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.

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Trials Against the Catalan Pro-Independence Movement and the Majority of Catalans

Independence TrialSpain’s Supreme Court 

12 Catalan leaders, including former members of the government who led the 2017 independence referendum, were tried: Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Meritxell Borràs, Carles Mundó, and Santi Vila; the former speaker of the Parliament Carme Forcadell and the civil society leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. Nine of the accused have been held in preventive detention for almost two years, despite calls for their release from human rights groups and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (WGAD).

Spain’s public prosecutor has charged the nine defendants in custody with misuse of public funds, sedition, and violent rebellion and has requested prison sentences of up to 25 years in jail.

The prosecutors have charged the three defendants who aren’t in preventive jail with offenses such as disobedience and misuse of public funds. They have also requested that they to be temporarily barred from holding public office.

The trial ended last June after 52 sessions. The judges are expected to issue a ruling either in September or October.

Former parliament bureau members – Spain’s High Court in Catalonia (TSJC)

Five former members of the parliament bureau and former MP from the CUP party, Mireia Boya, will be tried in the Spain’s High Court in Catalonia.

The members of the Bureau are charged with the offense of disobedience, allowing laws enabling independence to be voted on and approved by the Catalan Parliament. Former MP Boya is being charged for registering the initial proposal.

The preparations for the trials are expected to begin this autumn.

The Catalan police leadership on trial – Spain’s National Court

Former Catalan police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero, and four former police heads are accused of lack of action in preventing the 2017 independence referendum and mishandling the protests during the Spanish police raids on September 20 of the same year.

The prosecutor has charged Trapero, another Mosso and a former interior minister with aiding the rebellion and has requested 11 years in jail for each of them. Another Mosso is accused of sedition and risks a four-year jail term if found guilty.

The trial is expected to begin on January 20, 2020.

30 people are on trial over referendum logistics – Local Barcelona court

30 people, including government officials, civil servants and media workers are being prosecuted by a Barcelona court for collaborating with the organization of the 2017 independence referendum.

The prosecutor has charged them with crimes such as misuse of public funds, disobedience, deceit, revealing secrets and perversion of justice. Until the trial takes place, those accused have been granted liberty on bail of 5.8 million euro.

The court is still carrying out its investigation in preparation for the trial.

13 International Observers Denounce Violation of Human Rights During the Independence Trial

The International Trial Watch (ITW) platform has published thirteen reports of human rights activists and jurists around the world who attended the Independence Trial.

Each report written by these observers is autonomous. The ITW has not intervened in the drafting and has limited itself to coordinating and grouping them in this publication.

The authors of the reports include John Philpot – Canadian lawyer, Paul Newman – Indian philosopher and former spokesperson for the People’s Tribunal/Court of Sri Lanka, Bill Bowring – European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, Jelle Klaas – Nederlands Juristen Comité Voor De Mensenrechten, Patrizio Gonella and Susanna Marietti – Antigone, Matthieu Cretenand – University of Geneva, Cécile Brandely and Claire Dujardin – French Lawyers’ Union (AED), Ernesto Moreau – Argentinian lawyer, Sahar Francis – Defense and Human Rights Association Addameer, Cristina Servan Melero – Pro-Human Rights Association of Andalusia, Ramón Campos García and Ana Sebastián Gascón – Free Association of Lawyers of Zaragoza, and Joseba Belaustegi Cuesta – member of the Basque platform Jurists for the Right to Decide.

John Philipot, for example, considers that “The essence of this trial is to criminalize the exercise of civil and political rights. The Spanish state is treating these twelve politicians and social leaders fundamentally as a single criminal organization as if they were drug traffickers or an organized crime syndicate.”

Paul Newman concludes that “the only violence that occurred during the 2017 October 1st independence referendum was committed by the Spanish police and the Civil Guard, not the Catalan government.” He also points out that “everyone has the inherent right to self-determination.”

Jelle Klaas, who focuses his argument in the case of Jordi Cuixart, says “Arresting, detaining, and prosecuting Cuixart and asking for a 17 years prison sentence, in essence, is the fact that he made use of his human rights to protest.”

Claire Dujardin defines the trial as a “judicial farce.”

Sahar Francis of the Defense and Human Rights Association Addameer, an expert in the defense of Palestinian political prisoners in the military courts, comes to assure that “some of these practices [witnessed at the Supreme Court] are very similar to those of the military prosecution of the occupation.”

All experts agree that in Spain fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, are being violated, and that it is affecting the entire Spanish population. They also affirm that the essence of the trial “is to criminalize the exercise of civil and political rights.”

The International Trial Watch (ITW) Observers Platform Presents its Own Report on the Independence Trial to the UN

The International Trial Watch (ITW) observers platform has presented its own report on the Independence Trial to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that will be held on Spain at the session of the Human Rights Council in January 2020.

This is a Shadow Report, which is sent by NGOs to different UN bodies for reviewing the status of human rights amongst the various UN State Members.

In thirteen pages, the report brings together the human rights violations committed by Spain and the police and judicial repression against the independence movement since 2017. The first part shows the violent response of the State against the 2017 independence referendum. The second part shows the criminalization of the right to protest of the Catalans and also condemns the accusations of rebellion and sedition against jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, both in preemptive prison for over two years, for participating in peaceful demonstrations in September 2017 as leaders of the two pro-independence civil society organizations Òmnium and ANC respectively. A third part shows the allegations of violations of defense rights during the Independence Trial, demonstrating that the defendants have not had a fair trial with an impartial tribunal or even with the competence to judge them.

This document will be part of the test that Spain will send in January. It is a procedure that all UN Member States submit every four years. The situation of human rights of the state in question is reviewed, regardless of the ratification of international treaties.

The exam consists of a dialogue between the members of the Human Rights Council and the state examined, in this case Spain. The test ends with recommendations from the members of the council to the State, which must indicate whether to accept them totally or partially, or if they do not accept them.

International Trial Watch (ITW) will be able to participate in a session that will be organized in Geneva later this year. On this day, the permanent delegations of the states in Geneva and the NGOs and entities that have sent written contributions will meet.

If, at the end of all this procedure, there are some recommendations to Spain for having violated human rights against the independence movement, this can be important in political and image terms, but not judicially since this is not binding.

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart: “The solution to the problem of blind obedience is civil disobedience”

The President of the Catalan grassroots and pro-independence organization Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, said on Thursday that “the solution to the problem of blind obedience is civil disobedience.” In a letter that was read during the opening of the first days on civil disobedience organized by the entity, Cuixart explained that in order to reverse the “dramatic” situation that society suffers from, it is necessary to train “even more” and to exercise the practice of non-violence.

“To instruct us is essential because the powerful know how to criminalize the protest and cause dissent by putting us traps,” he argued. From the prison of Lledoners, he told the conference attendees that “we will do it again” and cited “constant, persevering and full of courage mobilization.” “The only battle that is lost is the one that is abandoned,” he concluded at the end of the letter.

Mauri, vice-president of Òmnium, also intervened in the conference to say that injustices in society must give rise to “non-violent civil disobedience.”

“We are in a moment of regression of rights. Civil disobedience is the most useful and legitimate instrument for the situation we are experiencing. Given the situation of the degradation of rights that we suffer in Catalonia, Spain and Europe, we understand that the committed, mobilized and organized citizens have the obligation to face it.”

Mauri emphasized that Cuixart’s phrase “we will do it again […] is not just a slogan, but is a guide for the coming years. All rights are defended by exercising them. We have a duty of citizenship, of civic commitment and moral obligation to defend them when they are violated, tried or condemned.”

The Spanish Judiciary Irregularities and the Protection of Freedoms and Rights

The President of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, has initiated a marathon of appointments of high judicial positions despite the fact that the council is pending renewal. He has already made the appointment of 13 of the aforementioned positions and plans to do about 25 more before August. The vacancies to renew include the presidency of the National Court and four seats of the Supreme Court.

Elisa Beni denounces in eldiario.es that this situation is unusual and “looks so bad that not only forces to question whether a CGPJ with pending renewal mandate can take these decisions that will tie his successors for five years in a body that will have a majority of progressive sensitivity, but also the anomalous way it is being done.”

She also regrets that “something so serious goes virtually unnoticed by the public as well as some politicians who do not see the seriousness of what is happening.”

The current Spanish judiciary is also currently deliberating on the sentences for the jailed Catalan leaders, who are expected to receive harsh punishments: sentences by up to 30 years in prison, for no apparent reason other than holding a depenalized democratic vote: a self-determination referendum.

Given the aforementioned anti-democratic moves, it’s not surprising that most Catalans support independence. The conclusion is clear: the Spanish authoritarian state is unreformable. Thus, the creation of a new state is a good opportunity for the Catalans to build a most prosperous and fair country where no one is above anyone else and all fundamental rights are respected.

The Independence Trial verdict, expected to be announced between July and October, will be another test of the strength of Spanish “democracy.” Because of several unfair verdicts in the past, the current Spanish Judiciary hasn’t given any reason for optimism – rather the contrary. So, pro-independence forces have the responsibility to find strategic unity leaving aside any kind of partisan division. It will be necessary to articulate a strong, peaceful and democratic response to the verdict in order to defend and protect the freedoms and rights achieved in the past by our parents, grandparents and ancestors.

It is important to remark that this democratic “battle” is not only about independence, but the protection of fundamental rights. These could be curtailed or even entirely eliminated by the Spanish State for many generations to come.

Authoritarianism VS Democracy

It’s still uncertain who will win this struggle, but it’s sure that everyone must choose one option to stand for and that the outcome will mark us as a society for many years to come.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary May 27, 28, and 29

May 27, Day 47 of Trial

– The documentary evidence phase started on Monday, showing documents and presenting hundreds of videos from both the defense and the accusation related to what happened during Autumn of 2017.

– Videos were not shown during the witness stage of the trial, and in this documentary phase no commentary on the footage was allowed.

– The evidence shown on Monday included police reports on activities allegedly related to the misuse of public funds and the seizure of material for the referendum.

– The accusation presented videos showing “violence” perpetrated by the voters against the Spanish police.

– The defense presented videos showing the “violence” perpetrated by the Spanish police during the October 1 referendum.

May 28, Day 48 of Trial

– On Tuesday, videos presented by the prosecution team aimed to establish that violence was used in the 2017 independence bid were shown.

– Footage shown in court featured protesters and voters peacefully trying to prevent the Spanish police from entering polling stations during the 2017 independence referendum.

– In many cases the state prosecutor was unable to say where or when the footage had been recorded.

– The prosecutor was often unable to tell the defense lawyers where exactly the video had been recorded, saying that the intention had been to show the “general climate everywhere.”

May 29, Day 49 of Trial

– The defense teams presented their video evidence in court.

– The videos shown in court featured some of the jailed leaders calling for the people to keep a peaceful attitude during the referendum.

– One of the videos featured the jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart openly rejecting “violence and non-democratic behavior.”

– Videos with images of police violence against peaceful voters and protesters at numerous locations across Catalonia were shown.

– The lawyers for the defense were able to identify when and where each of the videos had been filmed.

Additional Information

– The defense will present their summaries on June 10 before the defendants also share their closing remarks.

– The public prosecutor confirmed the charges of rebellion against most of the defendants on trial and requests prison sentences of up to 25 years for organizing a referendum and declaring independence in late 2017.

– The prosecutor requested 17 years in jail for the former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and for the Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

– The prosecutor requested 16 years in jail for the former Catalan ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, and Joaquim Forn.

– The solicitor general’s office requested 7 and 12 years in prison for sedition.

– The private prosecutor representing the far-right party Vox requested 74 years in prison for the former ministers and 62 years for Sànchez and Cuixart.

– Vox reduced its demands regarding Santi Vila, reducing the charges to disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.