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.” 

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).

ANC and Òmnium to Organize Five Massive Marches to Respond to the Upcoming Independence Trial Verdict

The pro-independence organizations Catalan National Assembly(ANC) and Òmnium Cultural have announced that they will organize five massive public marches from different parts of Catalonia to Barcelona. This will be “a countrywide response to the upcoming Independence Trial verdict demanding the freedom of political prisoners and exiles, against repression, and to claim the right to self-determination.” 12 Catalan leaders are expected to be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for organizing a referendum on independence in 2017.

Under the slogan Marxes per la Llibertat (Marches for Freedom), the action will take place in the days after the verdict is announced, on a date that the organizers will make public by then. The marches will start from five different locations: Girona, Vic, Berga, Tàrrega and Tarragona and will travel 100 kilometers on foot for three days until they arrive at the Catalan capital: Barcelona. According to the organizers, “the initiative is inspired by other historical peaceful marches such as Gandhi’s Salt March and Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

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On the first and second day, there will be two stages and on the third there will be only one because it is planned to arrive in Barcelona at noon. Each stage will begin and end in an urban nucleus in which a public breakfast, lunch and dinner will be offered at a symbolic price, and accommodation for the night will be free and people will continue the next day. ANC and Òmnium seek to involve the whole territory, in “a ‘transversal and ‘plural’ way to return the leading role of demonstrations to the citizens.” Citizens will be able to participate without the obligation to complete an entire march.

Aside from the marches, ANC and Òmnium will also organize demonstrations across the country the day of the announcement of the verdict, which is expected to be some time this week or on Monday. The demonstrations will be announced through social media specifying all the details.

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.