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.

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.”

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.

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.”