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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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.

President Torra Urges Catalan Parliament’s Speaker Roger Torrent to Be Prepared to Reinstate Exiled Leader Carles Puigdemont as President

On Saturday, President Torra urged Catalan Parliament’s Speaker Roger Torrent to be prepared to reinstate exiled leader Carles Puigdemont as President. It came a few hours after Torrent called for a “national unity government” of pro-independence and republican parties as one of the possible responses to the upcoming Independence Trial verdict.

In an interview for the ACN news agency on Saturday morning, Torrent said that President Torra must have his formula on the table and, if the occasion is given, it must be able to be materialized.

Torrent: “A national unity government is a good formula which would represent 80% of society.”

Nevertheless, Torra argued that all institutions, including the Parliament, will have to lead the reaction to the verdict during a period of “democratic confrontation [with Spain].”

Torra has insisted for months that any verdict other than the acquittal must have a democratic response based on the exercise of the right to self-determination.

This past weekend a new independentist summit took place in Switzerland with representatives of the pro-independence parties and the organizations JxCat, ERC, CUP, ANC and Òmnium. The aim of the meeting was to find strategic unity over the next few months.

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.

The Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs Fabricates a Dossier of 70 Pages Full of Distortions and Falsehoods to “Combat” the Catalan pro-Independence Movement Abroad

Spain Global, a body of the Spanish Foreign Ministry led by Josep Borrell has prepared a dossier of 70 pages full of falsehoods and distortions to combat the Catalan pro-independence movement abroad.

The document includes a list of 45 “habitual” pro-independence movement “slogans” which the Ministry for Foreign Affairs classifies as “fakes.” The document contradicts each case with falsehoods and distortions.

For example, the document only acknowledges three injuries during the October 1, 2017 independence referendum. However, the official data provided by the Catalan health department puts it at 1,066 people, many of whom needed medical assistance and some even hospitalization.

The dossier also suggests that the “Catalan pro-independence movement” is not peaceful and considers the peaceful demonstration in front of the Catalan Department of Economy on Sept. 20, 2017, (in which nobody was injured) a “seige.” Numerous organizations have pointed out that this demonstration was just a peaceful exercise of the right to protest.

Catalan civil society leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez were jailed and accused of sedition and rebellion for that demonstration. Organizations such as Amnesty International have repeatedly condemned this and called for their immediate release.

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The document explains that there aren’t any political prisoners, despite the fact that Amnesty International has published several reports saying that “the charges against Cuixart and Sànchez are unfounded and must therefore be dropped. If it can be shown that they called on demonstrators to prevent police from carrying out a lawful operation, this could constitute a prosecutable public order offence. But accusing them of such serious crimes as rebellion or sedition and detaining them for a year is disproportionate and an excessive restriction of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” Thus, it is clear that the jailed Catalan leaders are in prison for their ideas, not their crimes, therefore they are political prisoners.

The dossier also violates the presumption of innocence of former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, saying that her “illegal” acts “deprived Catalans of rights, and violated mandates” of courts. 

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Regardless, to the extent that the imprisoned Catalans have been convicted of no crimes, the dossier violates the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 6 (“Right to a fair trial”).

Per the CoE, “Art. 6§2 prohibits statements by public officials about pending criminal investigations which encourage the public to believe the suspect is guilty.” In this case, it’s more than just oral statements. It’s publishing and actively distributing documents implying guilt.

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Another chapter refers to the Spanish far right-wing party Vox as a “conservative” party and defends their presence in the Independence Trial as a private prosecutor. The body has indicated that this document is only one of many materials that are taken into consideration in its work “to face the threats to the reputation of Spain.”

As has been demonstrated above, this dossier appears to have been fabricated with the sole intention of manipulating public opinion.

 

 

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The ANC Urges the Catalans to Use the Mobilizations of the Independence Trial Verdict Response to “Take Strength” to Resume Unilateralism

Last week, the President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Elisenda Paluzie, urged the Catalans to use “the impulse of the upcoming Independence Trial verdict” to make demonstrations capable of forcing the Catalan government to recover unity and re-make a roadmap for independence.

Paluzie also said that according to the roadmap of the ANC, unilateralism must be resumed when pro-independence parties get over 50% of the total votes in a Catalan general election. In this regard, she said that unilateralism is “complex” and that it must be “reinforced” with the legitimization of the votes.

The President of the ANC admitted that there is “disparity” within the pro-independence movement, but that has also occurred on other occasions, such as in 2012 and 2013. For this reason, she insisted on calling for unity “in the face of the foreseeable condemnation of the political leaders and entities that serves to resume the path to independence and bring the objective back on the top of the agenda.”

Regarding the discomfort expressed by ERC with ANC’s strategy in the last few weeks, Paluzie pointed out that “it depends on the moment and the strategy adopted, the ANC may disturb one party or another.” She also made it clear that if there were people who ever insulted ERC leaders in a demonstration, it is an “isolated fact that the ANC does not support at all […] we have to be very hard in the content, but very elegant in the forms,” added Elisenda Paluzie

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.”