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.

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.

International Observers Find Violation of Numerous Human Rights and Legal Procedures During the Catalan Independence Trial

The organization of international observers Trial Watch – Catalan Referendum Case (ITW) has concluded in its preliminary report that the trial of the 12 independentist leaders held at the Supreme Court over the past few months is a “political cause” in which “fundamental rights such as free assembly, political participation and freedom of expression have been violated.” The group also considers that there is no basis for condemning political prisoners for rebellion and seditious crimes, and that they have been “reworked” to adapt them to the Criminal Code.

The ITW concludes that organising citizen demonstrations was not capable of “transforming the constitutional order or preventing the legitimate public authority from carrying out its functions,” since in this case a state of siege had been applied. The conclusions of the report also make a special mention of the cases of the former president of the ANC, Jordi Sànchez, the president of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart and the former president of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell: “Your behavior cannot be criminal because it was protected in the exercise of fundamental rights, such as the right of assembly or freedom of expression.”

The ITW also considers that the investigation carried out by prosecutor Javier Zaragoza in the National Court on November 5, 2015, has shown that it is a general cause: “The object was to investigate the entire Catalan political movement,” which is forbidden in the Spanish legal system.

More than 30 human rights organizations support the 20 points with which observers summarize the most important violations in the trial. Although not part of the process after the Supreme Court questioned the quality of observers, the group of experts hopes that the judges will accept the criticisms in the report. They also expect their analysis to help the defendants continue their path to European courts after the ruling, which will be known in the coming months.

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.”