Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan Ombudsman highlights the importance of the mechanisms of supervision of energy suppliers given the imbalance between suppliers and consumers

09/01/2018

foto

Rafael Ribó has taken part in a conference in Paris organized by the Energy Ombudsman of France.

Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, took part in a round table on the role of ombudsmen in overseeing the energy sector on January 9th. The seminar, organized by the French Energy Ombudsman, brought together leading experts from different disciplines.

The Catalan Ombudsman's speech stressed the current imbalance between supplier companies and consumers in terms of market dynamics. An imbalance that places consumers in a situation of vulnerability that requires the intervention of supervisory mechanisms, such as the ombudsman.

"Consumers need that help and protection mechanisms be established in order to provide them with clear information and training to make decisions. Likewise, they require agile, effective, free and independent mechanisms to resolve the disputes that arise in these cases". At all times, the Catalan Ombudsman has emphasized the situation of the most vulnerable and least protected consumers. In this regard, the institution is acting ex officio to analyse possible violations of rights derived from the new social discount rate of electric consumption recently passed.

In the current context the Ombudsman has also the function to directly control the activities of the private sector that entail the exercise of public service obligations.

The liberalization of the provision of activities considered essential cannot entail the diminution of rights and guarantees for users. This process of liberalization and privatization of activities and public services has as a main consequence that the Public Administration is no longer the the only subject that carries out public service obligations. Certain private economic sectors also carry out activities considered of public interest or essential.

The Catalan Ombudsman, who is a member of the European Energy Ombudsman Network (NEON), stressed the importance of sharing in the European framework the content of complaints and claims in this area. In this sense, he spoke of high prices that include concepts of difficult comprehension, little understandable bills, complex procedures with companies and in the electricity market, technological innovations (smart meters) that pose new challenges and problems, environmental challenges, regulatory changes , etc.

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The Catalan Ombudsman reiterates before the Central Electoral Commission and the European Commissioner for Human Rights that the passive suffrage of the jailed candidates must be reconciled with their deprivation of liberty

15/12/2017

STATEMENT

The instruction judge of the Supreme Court in the special case 20907/2017 rejected, on 14th December, 2017, the request made by Jordi Sànchez (Catalan independence leader) to enjoy permits to participate in election campaign events and to be able to give interviews to the penitentiary centre where he is remanded in custody, and also connect to the Internet in a broad schedule that allows him to intervene in the campaign.

In this context, and in the most scrupulous respect for judicial decisions, the Catalan Ombudsman reiterates its statement of December 5th on the right of political participation on an equal footing, enshrined in article 23 of the Constitution and in Article 3 of the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the European framework, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights effectively recognizes that the electoral rights of persons deprived of their liberty are not absolute and can be modulated, under the principle of proportionality, by the electoral legislation of the states. The ruling, however, does not make any modulation about the personal and unique situation of the candidate, and it denies each and every one of the measures he proposes to participate in the campaign, a participation that is naturally an integral element of the right to passive suffrage:  neither permits (escorted, if necessary, by the public force), nor contacts with the media that are not inserted in "the ordinary internal regime of the penitentiary establishment ", nor availability of the Internet "outside the ordinary control system set by the same centre".

The Catalan Ombudsman also reminds that the Electoral Law only limits the right of passive suffrage in the case of a criminal conviction, even if the judgement is not final, which does not occur in this case. Without a legal basis to substantially, limiting the right of passive suffrage is improper for a jurisdictional decision to restrict this right, nor can it be possible to restrict the rights established in the Law or the Constitution on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Consequently, the refusal, as a precautionary measure in a criminal procedure, that people remanded in custody may participate actively in an election campaign in which they are outstanding candidates violates, in the opinion of this institution, their fundamental right to passive suffrage.

This statement has been made known to the Central Electoral Board and the European Commissioner for Human Rights.

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The Catalan Ombudsman demands that the right of participation be guaranteed on the 21-D of the candidates in custody

13/12/2017

The European Court of Human Rights, in the Piermont case against France, notes that free elections and freedom of expression, especially the freedom of political debate, are the foundation of every democratic regime

The classification of the facts by the Attorney General Office as a sedition or rebellion and the provisional measures do not seem to comply with the principle of proportionality

Before the ruling of the judge of the Supreme Court on the personal situation of the people investigated in the special case 20907/2017, in which it is arranged to maintain the precautionary measure of provisional custody without bail to Cuixart, Forn, Junqueras and Sànchez, the Catalan Ombudsman, with the most scrupulous respect for judicial decisions, states the following:

1. The right of political participation, enshrined in article 23 of the Constitution and in article 3 of the additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), requires candidates for democratic elections to participate in the campaign in full conditions of equality with the rest of the candidates. Following the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as the ECHR found in the Piermont case against France, the content of article 3 of Additional Protocol no. 1 aims to guarantee the free access of all opinion groups to political activity, to reinforce the pluralism, tolerance and openness that a democratic society demands. In this sense, free elections and freedom of expression, especially the freedom of political debate, are the foundation of every democratic regime. The two rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing each other. Consequently, "freedom of expression is one of the conditions that guarantee the free expression of a people's opinion on the election of the legislative body."

 

For all this, it is particularly important, during electoral periods, to allow opinions and information of all kinds to circulate freely. In this way, especially in electoral periods, the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by article 10 of the ECHR must be considered in accordance with the right to make free elections, protected by article 3 of the Additional Protocol no. 1. The fact that three candidates of two different formations being in provisional custody during the campaign that begins, objectively distorts these elections and, therefore, their results. The Catalan Ombudsman has already reported in a report issued in April a worrying tendency to judge political life. In the current situation, the election campaign is also judicialized.

 

2. During the incipient investigation of the facts that are imputed to all the people investigated, including those that have remained under the jurisdiction of the Spanish National High Court, the Office of the Prosecutor and the instructional judge have made assertions that could be interpreted as criminalization of the freedom of expression and manifestation, which are rights of political participation indispensable in a democratic state. This happens when the instructional judge encompasses the crime of rebellion, which includes violence as a typical element, demonstrations of September 11 held peacefully in recent years or, equally disturbingly, allusions to eventual and future popular mobilizations, which in no case can be presumed to be violent. Or, in another context, some recent decisions of the central and provincial electoral boards of Barcelona and Tarragona about the use of yellow colour by individuals and institutions.

3. The jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court shows that articles 25.2 and 9.3 of the Constitution oblige to guarantee a principle of proportionality of penalties that does not seem to be respected in this case. The qualification of the facts by the Fiscal Ministry as a sedition or rebellion, assumed by the instructors of the case, as well as the provisional measures adopted at the time and that are maintained today for some of those investigated, do not seem to comply with this principle.

For all these reasons, the Catalan Ombudsman considers that respect for the Spanish Constitution cannot be confined to isolated provisions out of context, but must include all its scope of safeguard of fundamental rights and public freedoms and of recognition of self-government (article 2 and Title VIII), which has collided with the application of article 155, as the Catalan Ombudsman already stated on November 2nd.

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The Catalan Ombudsman demands that the right of participation be guaranteed on the 21-D of the candidates in custody

05/12/2017

Statement

The European Court of Human Rights, in the Piermont case against France, notes that free elections and freedom of expression, especially the freedom of political debate, are the foundation of every democratic regime

The classification of the facts by the Attorney General Office as a sedition or rebellion and the provisional measures do not seem to comply with the principle of proportionality

Before the ruling of the judge of the Supreme Court on the personal situation of the people investigated in the special case 20907/2017, in which it is arranged to maintain the precautionary measure of provisional custody without bail to Cuixart, Forn, Junqueras and Sànchez, the Catalan Ombudsman, with the most scrupulous respect for judicial decisions, states the following:

1. The right of political participation, enshrined in article 23 of the Constitution and in article 3 of the additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), requires candidates for democratic elections to participate in the campaign in full conditions of equality with the rest of the candidates. Following the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as the ECHR found in the Piermont case against France, the content of article 3 of Additional Protocol no. 1 aims to guarantee the free access of all opinion groups to political activity, to reinforce the pluralism, tolerance and openness that a democratic society demands. In this sense, free elections and freedom of expression, especially the freedom of political debate, are the foundation of every democratic regime. The two rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing each other. Consequently, "freedom of expression is one of the conditions that guarantee the free expression of a people's opinion on the election of the legislative body."

For all this, it is particularly important, during electoral periods, to allow opinions and information of all kinds to circulate freely. In this way, especially in electoral periods, the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by article 10 of the ECHR must be considered in accordance with the right to make free elections, protected by article 3 of the Additional Protocol no. 1. The fact that three candidates of two different formations being in provisional custody during the campaign that begins, objectively distorts these elections and, therefore, their results. The Catalan Ombudsman has already reported in a report issued in April a worrying tendency to judge political life. In the current situation, the election campaign is also judicialized.

2. During the incipient investigation of the facts that are imputed to all the people investigated, including those that have remained under the jurisdiction of the Spanish National High Court, the Office of the Prosecutor and the instructional judge have made assertions that could be interpreted as criminalization of the freedom of expression and manifestation, which are rights of political participation indispensable in a democratic state. This happens when the instructional judge encompasses the crime of rebellion, which includes violence as a typical element, demonstrations of September 11 held peacefully in recent years or, equally disturbingly, allusions to eventual and future popular mobilizations, which in no case can be presumed to be violent. Or, in another context, some recent decisions of the central and provincial electoral boards of Barcelona and Tarragona about the use of yellow colour by individuals and institutions.

3. The jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court shows that articles 25.2 and 9.3 of the Constitution oblige to guarantee a principle of proportionality of penalties that does not seem to be respected in this case. The qualification of the facts by the Fiscal Ministry as a sedition or rebellion, assumed by the instructors of the case, as well as the provisional measures adopted at the time and that are maintained today for some of those investigated, do not seem to comply with this principle.

For all these reasons, the Catalan Ombudsman considers that respect for the Spanish Constitution cannot be confined to isolated provisions out of context, but must include all its scope of safeguard of fundamental rights and public freedoms and of recognition of self-government (article 2 and Title VIII), which has collided with the application of article 155, as the Catalan Ombudsman already stated on November 2nd.

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Prevention of radicalization and terrorism in Catalonia

23/11/2017

Following the terror attacks of August 17th in Barcelona, the Catalan Ombudsman has submitted a report on prevention of radicalization and coordination of security forces. 

Radicalization is a complex phenomenon in which there are factors such as the difficulty in building a multiple cultural identity in a country where interculturality is still not well rooted, low expectations of success in school and work environment, low self-esteem and frustration, among others. It is necessary that public policies, at the different levels of the Administration, work on these elements. And they should do it without falling into Islamophobia and social exclusion, in line with what is promoted by Motion 151/XI of the Parliament of Catalonia.

In this sense, the protocols that have been adopted within the framework of the educational system are a tool that, while allowing the training of teachers and professionals of education and the in-depth and real work of interculturality in schools, are very positive for the fight against discrimination and the ideologies of hatred. It should be noted, however, that schools and education professionals cannot become pseudo-judicial entities for the detection of criminal or pre-criminal behaviours, since their main purpose is to educate and create a framework of coexistence and trust between students and the teachers

Catalan municipalities do not have any protocol or specific mechanisms for the prevention and detection of radicalism, although social services carry out prevention or coordination actions with other services. The Citizenship and Migration Plan 2017/2024 of the Secretariat for Equality, Migration and Citizenship can be a useful tool.

The State security forces, and their political leaders, must assume the fullness of the capacities and competences of the Catalan Police, including the fight against terrorism, and improve its coordination through the Security Board, the exchange of information and integration in all relevant cooperation structures at the state and international level.

In general, the administrations must promote a discourse on integration and prevention of racist conduct, discrimination, exaltation of violence and hatred, with special attention to the young population that is immersed in a process of identity research, and also paying attention to some processes of integration and socialization linked to identity based on religion and the difficulties linked to migration processes. 

See the recommendations submitted by the Ombudmsan in the attacched document.  

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