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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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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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 Constituent Citizen Debate to Begin in Autumn

Catalan President Torra and Lluís Llach, the head of the advisory council for the promotion of the Civic and Social Forum for the Constituent Debate, announced last week that the debate on the Catalan constituent process will begin in September with seven thematic training days in seven cities across the country.

Llach insisted that the objective was not for civil society to create a Catalan constitution, but come to a consensus to inspire the parties to create it elaborate hypothetical constituent parliament with no date. “The ultimate goal of this process is to debate which country we want, no more.” The constituent debate will have three phases:

1- The territorial platforms formed by entities that the Council has already helped to create after a set of meetings with all regional associations. They will focus on growing.

2- From November to March of next year discussions, based on question and answer sessions will be convened across Catalonia. This system should allow the opinions to be processed and quantified to determine the consensus.

3- The Civic and Social Forum will be convened to synthesize all the territorial debates. Then, they will submit the results to the Catalan Parliament in April.

The results of this Constituent Process should allow the Catalan Parliament to write the future Catalan Constitution.

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.