Josep M. Calvet, Barcelona, 1 September 2022
Image: The pro-independence leaders, after leaving Lledoners prison. Àlex Garcia
The UN censures Spain for violating the political rights of the leaders of the ‘procés’.
New setback to judge Llarena for the suspension of Junqueras, Romeva, Turull and Rull
The judge who investigated the case of the ‘procés’ in the Supreme Court, Pablo Llarena, has accumulated international setbacks after the successive fiascos with the Euro-orders and the repeated reproaches against the pre-trial detention of the defendants raised by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
On this occasion, the UN Human Rights Committee, in a resolution published yesterday, considers that Spain violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 by suspending the rights and duties of parliamentary representation of the former vice-president of the Generalitat Oriol Junqueras and the former ministers Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, before they were sentenced. The four politicians, along with five other pro-independence leaders – all of whom were remanded in custody at the time – were indicted by Llarena in March 2018 for the crime of rebellion, which requires a violent uprising, and in July were suspended as MPs under the Criminal Procedure Act, which allows for the suspension of public officials only when they are charged with rebellion.
The government is willing to heed the ruling and improve legislation.
After learning of the ruling in favour of the pro-independence politicians whose deputies’ seats were withdrawn after being prosecuted by the Supreme Court for rebellion, the Transport Minister, the Catalan Socialist Raquel Sánchez, assured that the government “scrupulously respects all the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee”, but also maintained that judicial rulings in Spain “are issued in accordance with the law and in accordance with the law”. In any case, she expressed the government’s willingness to “heed this resolution” and to “improve legislation and bring it into line with the standards of all the most advanced legislation in this regard”. For their part, the pro-independence movement and those affected celebrated the ruling yesterday as a victory in the international arena over Spanish justice which, in their opinion, highlights the state’s repression of the pro-independence movement, and advocated, especially from the ERC, for “amnesty as the only way out for all those who have suffered reprisals”.
The Human Rights Committee believes that the measure lacked the required reasonableness and objectivity.
The committee considers that the suspension constituted a violation of article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right of all citizens to be elected to public office. The ruling underlines that this right “constitutes the essence of democratic government” and, while recognising that there may be certain limitations, considers that the restriction imposed by the Spanish judiciary was unjustified.
The ruling highlights the fact that eventually the four politicians, who filed the lawsuit on 18 December 2018, were convicted in October 2019 for the crime of sedition, which did not involve violence. The committee concludes that “an application of domestic law that automatically results in the suspension of elected officials, for alleged offences based on public and peaceful actions, prior to the existence of a conviction, precludes an individualised analysis of the proportionality of the measure and therefore cannot be considered to meet the requirements of reasonableness and objectivity”, which, in its view, such restrictions must meet.
“The committee took an important step in affirming that safeguards against restrictions on political rights should be applied more rigorously if these restrictions occur prior to, and not after, a conviction for a crime,” committee member Hélène Tigroudja said yesterday.
Two of the body’s 17 members disagree with the opinion and consider the restriction to be “reasonable and appropriate”.
The decision has more political than legal effects, since the committee’s opinions are not binding, but it is considered that they should be taken into account by the signatories of the invoked pact (including Spain). According to the committee, in this case, its condemnatory opinion on the merits of the complaint constitutes sufficient reparation. However, it stresses that Spain “must take all necessary measures to prevent similar violations in the future”.
Two of the 17 members of the committee disagree with the opinion and insist that the Spanish courts’ action was “reasonable and timely”. José Santos Pais from Portugal and Wafaa Bassim from Egypt stress that Junqueras and the three ex-regional ministers acted against the law and disregarded the rulings of the Constitutional Court. “Their rights were restricted because they resorted to illegal means instead of the constitutional means available to reform the constitution,” the two experts say. In their view, the measure was “reasonable, necessary, proportionate” and “foreseeable”.