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.” 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Summary Penultimate Week of Independence Trial: June 4

On Tuesday, the concluding statements from the prosecuting lawyers (at the Supreme Court trial of 12 Catalan political leaders) were heard:

– Spain’s Public Prosecutor affirmed that the 2017 Catalan independence referendum was “a coup d’état.”

– Attorney Javier Zaragoza affirmed that the roadmap to independence, including a referendum and a declaration of independence in 2017, was a violent insurrection, uprising, involving coercion.

It was a serious attack on the foundations of the constitution with illegal, coercive methods, using violence when needed,” he said.

Zaragoza also said that the 9 jailed Catalan leaders were not political prisoners.

There are no political prisoners, they are not political prisoners,” he insisted. He also rejected the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s report urging the “immediate” release of the leaders, accusing the institution of ignoring Spain’s arguments.

– Spanish prosecutor Moreno: “There was violence, it was necessary for their cause, they knew the vote would provoke confrontations, and yet they still called people to vote knowing what would happen.”

– Public Prosecutor Fidel Cadena said that the jailed Catalan leaders should be charged with rebellion because “they violated the constitution and the foundations of the Spanish state.”

– Rosa María Seoane, the Solicitor General, affirmed that the “trial against the Catalan leaders is completely transparent” and denied that their right to defense was undermined during the process.

– The popular prosecutor of the far-right Vox party, accused the political prisoners of perpetrating “the most sophisticated and original coup d’état against a democracy ever seen in a modern society.”

– Javier Ortega Smith, one of the lawyers for far-right Vox, affirmed that the accused were part of a “criminal organization.”

Vox lawyers concluded by saying that they wanted tough sentences “so that no one dares to attack the constitutional order again.”

Additional Information

The trial will resume on Tuesday, June 11, at 9.30am with the closing arguments from the defense lawyers. The lawyers will only have one hour to defend each of the accused.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls for the immediate release of the jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, and Oriol Junqueras.

– “Prosecutors are trying to define a new concept of violence” says defense lawyer.