Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan Ombudsman meets with the authorities of the Council of Europe to address criteria for the protection of human rights and to inform about the situation in Catalonia

31/10/2018

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Rafael Ribó met with Thorbjørn Jagland (Secretary General) and Dunja Mijatović (European Commissioner for Human Rights), among others

The Catalan Ombudsman has delivered the report on the events of October 1 in Catalonia and the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which will be debated on November 7 in the Plenary of the Parliament

Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman and European President of the IOI (International Ombudsman Institute), has traveled on 30 and 31 October 2018 to Strasbourg and Paris to meet with the main European authorities in the field of people's rights.

In Strasbourg, he has met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland; the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović; the head of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Günter Schirmer, and the Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Ribó has met separately with them to address the role that European ombudsmen play in difficult times in the history of the European Community. He has emphasized the challenges and obstacles that must be tackled, such as populism, xenophobia and setbacks in human rights.

These issues were dealt with comprehensively in Barcelona in 2016 and 2017 within the framework of two seminars in which ombudsmen from all over the world participated and made two joint statements. The task of the ombudsman and the contributions that this institution can make to the current situation have also been debated in the last European Congress of the IOI, recently held in Brussels, in which the focus was on participation -from a local to a global level-,transparency and the application and utility of the international standards in the task of ombudsmen institutions.

During these meetings, the Catalan Ombudsman informed the Council of Europe about the situation in Catalonia, and referred to the need to demand the Spanish Government the report on the police action of October 1, 2017. He has also proposed that the possibility of sending observers to the trials of Catalan leaders and parliamentarians be studied, and has delivered the institution's report on the Violation of fundamental rights and public freedoms on the occasion of the criminal reaction to October 1 and the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, published on May 2017. 

Ribó has also met with the European Commissioner for Human Rights, with whom he addressed issues of concern for both institutions, such as migration flows and emerging human rights.

The meeting of the Venice Commission, which took place in the Council of Europe's office in Paris on Wednesday, October 31, aims to work on the document on principles for the protection and promotion of ombudsman institutions (Principles of Venice ). During the drafting process the main authorities and reference institutions in the field of human rights have been consulted.

The Paris meeting was attended by representatives of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), the Association of Ombudsmen and Mediators of the French-speaking World (AOMF), the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsman (FIO), the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI ) and the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen.

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Catalan ombudsman institutions take the Belgian model as a reference for networking

19/09/2018

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Belgian Federal Ombudsman, Guido Herman, explained in Girona how their federal, regional and local ombudsmen coordinate their work

The conference brought together thirty members of the Network of Ombudsmen of Catalonia, created at the end of 2017 with the aim of strengthening synergies

The meeting has also brought together the goals achieved by the ombudsmen during the years of economic crisis

 

Within the framework of the second meeting organized by the Catalan Ombudsmen Network, Federal Ombudsman of Belgium, Guido Herman, explained, before about thirty representatives of several Catalan ombudsman institutions, how Belgian ombudsmen (federal, regional and local) are coordinated.

The event, which took place at the University of Girona, was inaugurated by the rector, Quim Salvi. The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, has made the closing.

In his speech, Herman highlighted the peculiarities of the Federal Ombudsman in his country, in accordance with the situation of identity plurality that exists in Belgium. It is an institution that includes two federal institutions and their staff. Federal ombudsmen are appointed by the House of Representatives and currently they are Catherine De Bruecker (francophone) and Guido Herman (Flemish), who assumed their duties on November 19, 2013.

The meeting has also brought together the work accomplished by the different levels of ombudsmen in Catalonia before the violation of social rights in recent years of economic crisis. In this regard, there were given speeches by the Deputy General of the Catalan Ombudsman, Jaume Saura; the Ombudsman of Barcelona, Maria Assumpció Vila; the Ombudsman of the University of Barcelona, Lluís Caballol, and the defender of client (AGBAR company), Sergi Sanchís.

The Catalan Ombudsmen Network is a platform with a clear training vocation and promoted by the Catalan Ombudsman to coordinate its work with the rest of the sectorial ombudsmen (related to municipalities, universities and companies that provide services of general interest).

Beyond the bilateral relations and collaborations that in practice already work between the Catalan Ombudsman and the other Catalan ombudsman institutions, the creation of a rights defence network throughout Catalonia was one of the goals that the Catalan Ombudsman had set for his term.

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Statement regarding the suspension from public office of six MPs of the Parliament of Catalonia

11/07/2018

On July 10th, 2018, the judge's ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court in special cause 20907/2017 was issued, ordering the suspension from public office of six MPs of the Parliament of Catalonia in application of article 384 bis of the Spanish Law of criminal prosecution (LeCrim).

With regard to this decision, the Catalan Ombudsman states the following:

1. As indicated in the statement issued on June 29th, an interpretation of article 384 bis in accordance with the doctrine of the Spanish Constitutional Court (STC 199/1987) would make inapplicable the automatic suspension of office or public function of the people indicted and imprisoned for alleged crimes linked to the Catalan process, since in this case the use of weapons or explosives has not occurred at any time, as the Spanish Supreme Court itself acknowledges in its ruling June 26th, 2018. For this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman believes that the MPs affected by the suspension measure, in exercise of their right of participation and representation, may appeal against the decision to the competent jurisdictional bodies, including the constitutional one.

2. The suspension of public office or public function of article 384 bis of LeCrim may have a direct effect on the majorities of the Parliament of Catalonia and may distort the result of the elections of December 21, 2017. In this regard, it should be noted that, by means of a judicial decision of a merely precautionary nature and not on the grounds of the case under trial, several MPs could be deprived of exercising their functions for an indefinite period. Therefore, there would be a violation of the fundamental right of participation of the MP as an individual in the Parliament and, above all, of the collective right of participation of Catalan voters in the formation of political majorities through elections every four years. This decision, at the present stage of the procedure, would contradict the case law of the ECtHR, for whom "the role of the judicial bodies cannot change the expression of the people in any case" (Kerimova against Azerbaijan, September 30th, 2010).

3. The alternative provided by the judge's ruling, according to which the Parliament of Catalonia could agree to replace the suspended MPs by other members of the corresponding candidates, is not provided for in the legal system, supposes an overruling of the judicial functions for invasion of the legislative power, represents an interference with parliamentary autonomy and raises for all these reasons serious difficulties of effective application. In particular, the delivery of acts of provisional MPs, that would correspond to the Electoral Board and that cannot be sustained in the Organic Law of General Electoral Regime (LOREG). Therefore, all the risks of distortion of the electoral results of the last elections to the Parliament of Catalonia indicated in the previous point subsist for the time being.

4. Finally, the Catalan Ombudsman again emphasizes, as he has shown in his recent report of June 2017, on the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms arising from the criminal justice reaction to October 1st, that the accusations of rebellion, sedition and criminal organization that are being substantiated by the Spanish Supreme Court, the Spanish National Court and other courts of instruction are clearly disproportionate to the events that occurred in Catalonia, particularly between September and October 2017. More specifically, regarding the rebellion, the references made by the Spanish Constitutional Court (STC 199/1987) to the use of war and explosive weapons to justify the suspension of public office of people prosecuted and imprisoned by rebellion clearly denote that none of the facts that are investigated in special cause 20907/2017 incur in this criminal type. This ruling is a step in the opposite direction to the necessary dialogue to resolve the political conflict in Catalonia.

This statement is brought to the attention of the European Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to their knowledge and consideration.

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Statement regarding the suspension from public office of six MPs of the Parliament of Catalonia

11/07/2018

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On July 10th, 2018, the judge's ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court in special cause 20907/2017 was issued, ordering the suspension from public office of six MPs of the Parliament of Catalonia in application of article 384 bis of the Spanish Law of criminal prosecution (LeCrim).

With regard to this decision, the Catalan Ombudsman states the following:

1. As indicated in the statement issued on June 29th, an interpretation of article 384 bis in accordance with the doctrine of the Spanish Constitutional Court (STC 199/1987) would make inapplicable the automatic suspension of office or public function of the people indicted and imprisoned for alleged crimes linked to the Catalan process, since in this case the use of weapons or explosives has not occurred at any time, as the Spanish Supreme Court itself acknowledges in its ruling June 26th, 2018. For this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman believes that the MPs affected by the suspension measure, in exercise of their right of participation and representation, may appeal against the decision to the competent jurisdictional bodies, including the constitutional one.

2. The suspension of public office or public function of article 384 bis of LeCrim may have a direct effect on the majorities of the Parliament of Catalonia and may distort the result of the elections of December 21, 2017. In this regard, it should be noted that, by means of a judicial decision of a merely precautionary nature and not on the grounds of the case under trial, several MPs could be deprived of exercising their functions for an indefinite period. Therefore, there would be a violation of the fundamental right of participation of the MP as an individual in the Parliament and, above all, of the collective right of participation of Catalan voters in the formation of political majorities through elections every four years. This decision, at the present stage of the procedure, would contradict the case law of the ECtHR, for whom "the role of the judicial bodies cannot change the expression of the people in any case" (Kerimova against Azerbaijan, September 30th, 2010).

3. The alternative provided by the judge's ruling, according to which the Parliament of Catalonia could agree to replace the suspended MPs by other members of the corresponding candidates, is not provided for in the legal system, supposes an overruling of the judicial functions for invasion of the legislative power, represents an interference with parliamentary autonomy and raises for all these reasons serious difficulties of effective application. In particular, the delivery of acts of provisional MPs, that would correspond to the Electoral Board and that cannot be sustained in the Organic Law of General Electoral Regime (LOREG). Therefore, all the risks of distortion of the electoral results of the last elections to the Parliament of Catalonia indicated in the previous point subsist for the time being.

4. Finally, the Catalan Ombudsman again emphasizes, as he has shown in his recent report of June 2017, on the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms arising from the criminal justice reaction to October 1st, that the accusations of rebellion, sedition and criminal organization that are being substantiated by the Spanish Supreme Court, the Spanish National Court and other courts of instruction are clearly disproportionate to the events that occurred in Catalonia, particularly between September and October 2017. More specifically, regarding the rebellion, the references made by the Spanish Constitutional Court (STC 199/1987) to the use of war and explosive weapons to justify the suspension of public office of people prosecuted and imprisoned by rebellion clearly denote that none of the facts that are investigated in special cause 20907/2017 incur in this criminal type. This ruling is a step in the opposite direction to the necessary dialogue to resolve the political conflict in Catalonia.

This statement is brought to the attention of the European Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to their knowledge and consideration.

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Statement of the Catalan Ombudsman on the suspension of public officials

29/06/2018

On  June  27, 2018 the ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court confirming the prosecution of several Catalan political and social leaders for rebellion was issued.

The Catalan Ombudsman recently reported the disproportion of criminal qualifications regarding the events of October 1 and 27 and the possible violation of rights with regards to the principle of criminal legality, among others. (See report)

Regardless of those considerations, as for the automatic suspension of public office to the prosecuted people, the Catalan Ombudsman notes that:

Article 384 bis of the Criminal Law can only be applied when people accused of terrorism or rebellion are prosecuted and in prison. Therefore, people prosecuted with decreed prison, but not subject to an effective provisional loss of freedom cannot be deprived of their public office.

In addition, the ruling of Spanish Constitutional Court 199/1987, when referring to suspension of public office to people prosecuted for rebellion, it states it can only be applied when there has been an illegitimate use of war weapons or explosives.   

Furthermore, the ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court of June 16 Excludes explicitly the use of weapons in the presumed crime of rebellion on the part of the prosecuted people and, even less, the use of war or explosive weapons in the commission of the presumed crimes object of the cause. This means that one of the legal elements is missing to agree to the suspension of public office to all the people prosecuted and imprisoned.

Consequently, Catalan Ombudsman understands that the constitutional right to exercise public office, in accordance with the criteria of capacity and merit and by virtue of appointment or election, would be violated if a provision reserved for other cases is a applied to this cause.

 

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