A Report by Rights International Spain (RIS) and Other International Organizations on Human Rights Violations in Spain

Rights International Spain (RIS), an independent non-governmental organization, formed by experts in international law and dedicated to the promotion and defense of civil rights and liberties, highlights in one of its documents the condemnation of Spain by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2018 there were eight condemnations, for violations of rights similar to those committed in previous years. Other experts from UN agencies and the Council of Europe have also expressed their concerns about the repression suffered by the Catalan independence movement.

Condemnations

In 2018, the ECHR condemned Spain eight times for violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The condemnations are about repeated violations of freedom of expression, the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and an independent and impartial tribunal, and respect for family and private life.

In addition, the Council of Europe Anti-Corruption Group (GRECO) evaluated last January the degree of compliance by Spain with the recommendations issued after previous evaluations to prevent and combat the corruption of parliamentarians, judges, and prosecutors. GRECO observed that Spain had not applied or addressed any of the eleven recommendations contained in the last report, issued in 2014.

Earlier this year, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe addressed the Spanish Congress and Senate urging them to modify the current Citizen Security Law to eliminate all disproportionate interference in the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The Commissioner expressed concern about the broad and inaccurate wording of the law, which gives a broad margin of interpretation to the police and, as a result, allows for arbitrary. This law resulted in sanctions with unclear foundations against journalists filming police officers or against people in peaceful demonstrations and disproportionate limitations of fundamental rights protected by the European Convention.

In December 2018, the Council of Europe mentioned Spain as a problematic example of the application of anti-terrorism legislation. The reason for this was vague and inappropriately widespread terms of the crimes concerning terrorism. Specifically problematic is Article 578 of the Criminal Code, which has led to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression.

Torture

The Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture recommended the creation of a new entity to prevent torture in Spain. Currently, such measures are handled by an Ombudsman’s office. In addition, other UN human rights experts urged Spain to suspend the extradition of Chinese and Taiwanese people to mainland China, as they risk torture and execution. Spain is a signatory of the international commitment to refrain from expelling, returning or extraditing persons to any State if there are reasons to believe that they may be subjected to torture or the death penalty.

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Catalonia Poll: Over 80% of Catalans Are in Favor of a Mutually Agreed Self-determination Referendum

Last week, Spanish PM Sánchez affirmed that most Catalans don’t support the independence of Catalonia and urged the Catalan government to present him a proposal supported by at least 75% of Catalans. The last poll carried out by the Ara newspaper shows that 80% of Catalans are in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum, a proposal that Sánchez should accept in order to keep his words and fulfill his often hollow promises. 

Ara Newspaper Poll

80.4% of Catalans are in favor of an agreed self-determination referendum according to a survey published by the Ara newspaper this Sunday. By parties, the trend is the same, 71% of those who voted the “Socialist” Party (PSC) on Dec. 21 agree with a mutually agreed referendum.  In fact, the only ones who are most opposed are the PP and C’s voters, although 24% of C’s voters also show their support for a referendum.

The poll also shows that over 75% of Catalans rejects the pre-trial incarceration for the Catalan political prisoners, the accusations of rebellion, and the possible implementation of another Article 155 (direct rule) over Catalonia. Almost 8 out of 10 Catalans are against the pre-trial imprisonment, and a similar percentage are also opposed to the fact that the Catalan prisoners will be tried for rebellion. 49.8% of those interviewed who oppose independence believe that the charges are excessive, and 52.5% also believe the fact they are are in a provisional prison. In both cases, the percentage of the voters against independence is 39%. 

Over 79% of Catalans oppose a recurrence of future interventions from the Spanish government. In fact, only the voters of the PP and C’s support this idea, although in the case of C’s there are 31% who are against to what their political leaders think.

Spanish PM Sánchez

It’s clear there is a consensus in Catalonia in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum to solve the ongoing crisis and against the judicialization of politics. The administration of the Spanish PM Sánchez should soon tackle the real demands of Catalan society, or the Catalans, who have shown the first signs of frustration and fury against the current situation, could soon organize themselves to unilaterally implement the Catalan Republic. And December 21st. appears to be Sanchez’s last opportunity to de-judicialize politics and propose a realistic project for Catalonia. Whether Spanish PM Sánchez will act smarter than his predecessor Rajoy is still unknown, but what appears to be certain is that his time as PM to solve the Catalan crisis is ending.

Spain’s King Felipe VI Maintains his Confrontational Discourse against the Catalan Independence Movement

In his speech for the ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the Spanish Congress on Thursday, Spain’s King Felipe VI maintained his confrontational discourse against the Catalan independence movement — over two million Catalans — and aligned himself with the far right-wing PP, C’s, and Vox parties against modifying the Constitution. His discourse comes amid the most serious crisis of legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy in the last 40 years.

The ceremony was attended by the current Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, his living predecessors, and the king’s parents. The Catalan independence parties ERC and PDeCAT did not attend it, arguing that the current Constitution is a “tool” to repress the Catalans. Members of the EAJ, EH Bildu, and CeC were also absent.

Felip VI’s speech was triumphalist, defining the 40 years of the Constitution as “the greatest and most successful period of contemporary Spanish history.” He also made a fierce defense of the Monarchy as “a symbol of the unity and permanence of the State.”

During the ceremony, the king called on the Spanish people several times to “preserve” and ” not to distort” the values of the Constitution, which he defined as a great pact for social harmony and reconciliation” which the rule of law is based on. Although the monarch didn’t mention the Catalan crisis directly, he argued that differences between Spaniards must be resolved through dialogue, even by going to court, and by fulfilling legal decisions. He insisted several times that this will happen with respect for the law, without any type of imposition.

Felipe also claimed that the monarchy is “indissolubly coupled with democracy and freedom.” He added that Spain, which is a “strong and fully consolidated democracy,” has experienced “very serious events” in recent years but that the Constitution “has prevailed.”

Once again, Spain’s King Felipe adopted an anti-Catalan rhetoric that will benefit supporters of independence and will bring his popularity to a historic low in Catalonia. By closing the door to modifying the Constitution in the near future, the King not only positioned himself against the will of the supporters of  Catalan independence who want to build a new republic, but also against the immense majority of Catalans: 83% who, according to recent polls, wouldn’t approve of the current Constitution if it was voted on today in a referendum.

The King’s speech shows the Catalans that there is not any possibility of the Spanish State accepting any of their demands, so it appears that the only possible way left for the Catalans to prosper and build better living conditions for the next generations is by implementing the republic.

Hard times where a repressive State – Spain – is willing to use violence to impose their ideas are coming, but with unity, courage, unilateralism, and determination, the Catalans will have a chance of achieving their long-desired republic.  

Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull Go On Indefinite Hunger Strike

The Catalan political prisoners Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, leaders awaiting trial for last year’s referendum, announced earlier this Saturday they were starting an indefinite hunger strike to protest over their treatment by Spanish courts.

Official Declaration of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull from Lledoners Prison 

<< We denounce:

the blockade of European justice that the Constitutional Court imposes upon us

Timely access to the courts without delay or unnecessary obstacles is a right that every person has. Failure to exercise this right with full guarantees and in fair conditions can lead to irreparable damages and damages to fundamental rights.

The cause investigated by the Spanish State on the Referendum of October 1, evidences a lot of affectations on our fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence, freedom, political rights and the rule of law, a judicial process with all due guarantees. The violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are quite prominent in many of the resolutions that both the Supreme Court and the National Court have issued against us since October 16, 2017, when the first pre-trial detention orders were issued.

Our determination to have a fair, lawful trial is stronger than ever. We have not ceased to appeal all those violations of our rights that the Spanish courts have committed. But it is the international courts, and in particular the European Court of Human Rights, where today we deposit the trust to get justice.

The Constitutional Court (CC), however, blocks our access to European justice. The action of the CC is as simple as blatant: to accept 100% of our appeals for constitutional protection of fundamental rights, to be processed later on in order not to resolve any of them.

According to official data of the CC, the accepted number of appeals ranged between 1% and 1.5% of the total number of those presented. In our case, they are filed 100%, then forgotten in a drawer. The Spanish legislation (Criminal Procedure Act) and the doctrine of the same Constitutional Court, stipulate that the appeals against pretrial detention orders must enjoy preferential processing and must be resolved within a maximum period of 30 days. The first appeal for constitutional protection of our fundamental rights, accepted by the Constitutional Court against the pre-trial detention order decreed by the National Court, was filed on November 22, 2017, more than 365 days ago. An unjustified delay, and more so if we keep in mind the records of quick resolutions resolved by the Constitutional Court in several occasions, where it has met even on a weekend and only 24 hours after its intervention has been requested.

We ask for an impartial and diligent Constitutional Court, which should not impede the exercise of our rights. We denounce the blockade that the Spanish Constitutional Court de facto imposes upon us to access the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). We reaffirm our determination, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, to fully exercise our defense rights. We will never give up on our right to a fair trial.

We do not ask the Constitutional Court for any treatment of favor. But we do not passively accept any discrimination or unwarranted procrastination. The question is not even that the Court would rule in our favor, but simply that the appeals presented would be unblocked (by being not admitted or by simply being rejected). Only in this way, will the road to access Euro- pean justice be opened to us. We are well aware that the longer it takes for us to access the European Court of Human Rights, regaining our freedom will take longer as well.

We denounce the blockade of European justice imposed on us by the Constitutional Court. And we do so with all the strength and dignity of a line of political action strongly rooted in non- violence. Thus, we will resort to one of the few legitimate forms of protest that being imprisoned allows us; by conducting a hunger strike.

We will not do it against anyone, but in favor of creating awareness and fostering action to prevent the acceptance of something that is not normal as normal. The irregular functioning of the Constitutional Court is of severe seriousness in a State of Law. And that must appeal to all democrats, whichever their political choices are.

We ask for the attention and support of all the democratic people of Catalonia, Spain, Europe, and the World. We invite you to preserve the civic and peaceful attitude that has made us so strong over these years. We urge the”Smile Revolution” to flourish through events that will continue to be celebrated in Catalonia in the form of concentrations, “yellow dinners”, and concerts in the coming days and weeks. And we also ask for our hunger strike not to alter the spirit or celebration that these dates, close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, bring to the majority of us.

We are grateful, finally, for the solidarity of all women and men who feel interpellated and committed to the effective defense of rights and freedoms, personal and collective.

 Together for dignity and until freedom is reached!

 Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull

Prison of Lledoners, December 1, 2018. >>

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) Demands the Immediate Release of Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez

The largest network of NGOs against torture and inhumane treatment in the world, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), has called for the immediate release of two jailed Catalan leaders; Òmnium Cultural’s president Jordi Cuixart and the former President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Jordi Sànchez.

The OMCT demands that accusations against the two jailed Catalan leaders be dropped, considering that they are unfounded. They also argue that keeping them in pre-trial jail is a restriction of their fundamental rights.

In the letter, which focuses on Jordi Cuixart, and is signed by Secretary General of the OMCT, Gerald Staberock, the organization calls for an end to the harassment against Cuixart and Sànchez and seeks to guarantee their right to a fair trial.

Another concern for the OMCT is that these two leaders of civil society will be tried in the Spanish Supreme Court. This is worrisome, especially when recalling the latest controversies about how the members of the high court are appointed, which cast doubt on the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

The OMCT believes that the political nature of the trial against the Catalan leaders is highlighted by the participation of the far right Vox party as a private prosecution.

The letter also points out that Cuixart has appealed to the courts for release on several occasions but “with no success,” and argues that to be “compatible with international standards,” pre-trial imprisonment “must only be applied as a last resort.”

The OMCT recalls that the right to freedom of assembly consecrates the freedom to meet, debate, and discuss whenever the organizers of the meeting have peaceful intentions, means, and ways. Additionally, at this point, the entity emphasizes that the term “peaceful” must be understood as a behavior “that can annoy or offend, and even prevent or hinder third-party activities.”

The OMCT already publicly condemned the “indiscriminate and excessive use of force by the police in Catalonia during last year’s independence referendum” and called for an immediate and impartial investigation.

READ the full statement here

The Catalan Police Group Guilleries Warns that Spain’s Police Agents Participate in Far-Right Unionist Squads

On Friday, the Catalan police group, Guilleries, released a statement on Twitter where they reported that agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard had participated in a unionist far-right group meeting that had acted across Girona’s region (Catalonia) over the last few months. 

On Tuesday night, the Catalan police were alerted by an unnamed local source neighborhood of a far-right group meeting in a bar in Figueres (Girona) that was allegedly preparing to remove Independence symbology and yellow ribbons from numerous towns across the region of Girona.

When the Mossos arrived, they observed that two men from the group left the bar and got in a black color car. That’s when Catalan police followed and intercepted them. The surprise was when the two men in the car identified themselves as agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard.

According to the Mossos, these two agents were “nervous and cooperated very little.” They refused to give any explanation about why they were participating in a far-right group meeting. In this regard matter, the Catalan police demand that the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs clarify what tasks are being carried out by the hundreds of Spanish police agents deployed across Catalonia that are not part of the ordinary staff. “It would be unacceptable that public resources are being spent to integrate police officers into squads aimed at provoking civil strife.” The Guilleries group of Mossos warns of the presence of Civil Guards infiltrated in extremist unionist squads.

Captura.PNG

The Spanish “Socialist” Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) to Reach an Agreement on the New Composition of the General Council of the Spanish Judicial Power (CGPJ)

The Spanish “Socialist” Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) are negotiating over the new composition of the General Council of the Spanish Judicial Power (CGPJ), the governing body of the judiciary, as well as the presidency of the Supreme Court. The new appointments to the CGPJ  are scheduled for early December. Twenty members will be appointed: twelve by magistrates and eight by political parties in the Spanish Congress with a qualified majority of three fifths. 

The PSOE needs the PP for the renewal of the GCPJ given that it requires the aforementioned super-majority of three-fifths in the Spanish Congress. The negotiations between the PP and the PSOE began early this August though no final agreement has yet been reached.

The PP has proposed Manuel Marchena, the current President of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, to replace Carlos Lesmes at the head of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). The name Marchena has political significance. He currently presides over the chamber that will judge the Catalan leaders and political prisoners who were involved in last year’s independence referendum. He will also be the one to announce the final sentences against them. Though not officially decided yet, the PSOE will propose someone like the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court, Encarnación Roca. However, the PSOE could end up accepting the PP’s proposal given that the deadline for proposing the members of the new CGPJ is today, and it needs the support of the PP. It’s believed that failing to reach an agreement would weaken the PSOE.

The PSOE is planning to give Unidos Podemos one of the names of the ten judges that they will nominate. Apparently, Podemos will choose Victoria Rosell. Thus Podemos appears to support this flagrant violation of the separation of powers in Spain that they once strongly criticized.

The Spanish Government won’t involve the Catalan pro-independence parties in the renewal of the Spanish judiciary, although the Catalan Government didn’t intend to participate in any case. The Catalan administration believes that the twenty members of the CGPJ should be elected by the judges, and not by parties. The renewal of the Council of the Spanish Judiciary comes on the eve of the trial against the Catalan political prisoners over last year’s independence referendum and after the scandal of the sentence of the mortgages that have buried the prestige of the high court, which makes clear the inexistent separations of powers in the Spanish State.

Given that a significant number of judges of the CGPJ, the governing body of the judges, are directly appointed by the two major political parties in the Spanish Congress, who can guarantee that the Catalan political prisoners will have a fair trial? On the contrary, it appears that the sentence against the Catalan leaders will be a political decision that is expected to be a tough one.