Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan Ombudsman informs European institutions about the lack of political dialogue and respect for rights in Catalonia

16/09/2017

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The Catalan Ombudsman has addressed the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the Director of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Ombudsman, all his European counterparts, the Ombudsman of Spain and all Spanish regional ombudsman

He urges all the institutions involved to engage immediately in the necessary political dialogue and respect for rights between institutions.

In line with the report submitted last April, he emphasizes that freedoms of expression, assembly and information are pillars of democracy, and that judicial action and the prosecution of alleged criminal acts must be inspired by the principle of proportionality

He commits to continue to analyse the actions of the public authorities and to process any kind of consultation and complaint received, reaching European domains, if applicable.

Link to the video of the press conference (in Catalan)

The Ombudsman of Catalonia has communicated the European institutions for the defence of rights his concern about the serious violations of fundamental rights and freedoms that are being committed in Catalonia and throughout Spain. 

In particular, he has addressed the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the Director of the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency, the European Ombudsman, all his European counterparts, the Ombudsman of Spain and all Spanish regional. His objective was to alert on the measures and actions adopted that could mean a breach of rights. 

These measures are manifestly contrary to fundamental rights recognized in the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute, as well as in international treaties ratified by Spain, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, these measures are contrary to the conclusions of a recent report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 

This document states that in our societies issues related to self-determination or secession should be able to be addressed and resolved "by means of a peaceful and democratic dialogue that respects the rule of law and human rights (including the rights of national minorities) between the region concerned and the government of the state to which it belongs" (report of September 4th, 2017, Doc. 14390). 

In this regard, the Catalan Ombudsman has urged all the institutions involved to engage immediately in the necessary political dialogue to address such transcendental issue.

The Catalan Ombudsman refers specifically to the precautionary prohibition of an act in Madrid to support the right to decide, issued by the Contentious-Administrative Court  3 (ruling of September 12, 2017); and also to the apparent prohibition for the media of the Catalan Broadcasting Corporation (TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio) "to inform about any agreement or action that allows the preparation and/or holding of the referendum of self-determination in Catalonia" (notification of September 12 of the TSJC of the providence of the Constitutional Court of September 7 of this year). 

He has also highlighted the Order of the Attorney General of the State to initiate investigative proceedings −invading other proceedings in process− in relation to more than 700 elected municipal officials and to summon the mayors as investigated persons, with the explicit warning that, in the event of a non-appearance, they will be arrested. Other adopted measures that have been reported to the aforementioned European institutions are the search of printing offices or the order of intercepting communications without judicial authorization. 

Finally, the Catalan Ombudsman has committed to continue to analyse the actions of the public authorities that have an impact on Catalonia with regards to the safeguard of human rights, and to process any kind of consultation and complaint related to this matter, reaching European domains, if applicable.

In line with the report presented last April, Human Rights regression in Spain: elected officials’ freedom of expression and the separation of powers, the Catalan Ombudsman has emphasized that freedoms of expression, assembly and information are pillars of democracy, and that judicial action and the prosecution of presumed criminal acts must be inspired by the principle of proportionality. 

Link to the video of the press conference (in Catalan)

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The Catalan Ombudsman condemns the attack in Barcelona and expresses its solidarity with the victims and their families

17/08/2017

He has offered his support both to the President of the Catalan Government and the Minister of the Interior 
The Ombudsman of Catalonia condemns the attack that took place this afternoon in the heart of Barcelona and expresses its profound solidarity with the victims and their relatives.

He has informed so the President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, and the Minister of the Interior, Joaquim Forn, to whom he has also offered his collaboration in everything that may be necessary.

As a defender of the rights of people, the Catalan Ombudsman wants to express his full support for the defence of liberties. 

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Experts and European Ombudsmen, gathered by the Catalan Ombudsman, discuss in Barcelona the cost of energy and consumer protection

16/06/2017

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The engineer specialized in renewable energy, Pep Salas, approaches the system of implementation of smart meters

Organized in the framework of the NEON network of ombudsmen, the conference was attended by European Ombudsmen expert in this field

Among the attendees, there were representatives of the suppliers and the Third Sector (non-profit social organizations)

The Ombudsman of Catalonia and NEON (European Network of EnergyOmbudsmen) have organized for June 16 a working session, firstly, about the cost of energy and protection vulnerable consumers and, secondly, about the introduction of smart meters. 

The event brought together key players in the sector at European level, such as the energy ombudsmen from France, Belgium, Italy, Ireland or the United Kingdom. They agree on the fact that access to ombudsmen and alternative dispute resolution systems must be encouraged and they intend to achieve this target despite the difficulties resulting from the European directive, which does not mention the institution of ombudsman as a figure of reference in this regard. 

"Vulnerable consumers, social tariffs, minimum European standards, winter moratorium, guaranteed disconnection, consumer protection." Under this heading, the researcher Naomi Creutzfeldt has approached the measures that should be taken to protect vulnerable consumers. 

Pep Salas Prat, engineer and specialist in renewable energy and electricity networks, has approached in his speech the cost of energy tariffs, taxes, smart meters, billing and transparency. The interventions of the European ombudsmen have been useful to compare systems of smart meters implementation in several countries. 

The representatives of the suppliers in Catalonia and the Third Sector organizations also attended the conference, in which was also discussed the clean energy package, presented by the European Commission in November 2016. This project includes as one of its cornerstones providing a fair deal for consumers. 

It has also been dealt a framework document for a national pact for the energy transition in Catalonia, approved recently by the Government of Catalonia.

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Rafael Ribó, as President of the IOI-Europe, has met in Strasbourg with the European authorities on human rights

02/06/2017

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Accompanied by the European Vice President of the IOI and Federal Ombudsman of Belgium, Catherine de Bruecker, Ribó has visited, among others, the European Commissioner for Human Rights


The Catalan ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, and the Federal Ombudsman of Belgium, Catherine de Brueker, as President and Vice President of the IOI-Europe, respectively, have visited on May 31 and June 1 in Strasbourg several European authorities in the field of human rights.

Specifically, and on behalf of the International Ombudsman Institute, Ribó and de Breuker have met the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks. They have also visited the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Guido Raimondi, who was accompanied by the Secretary-General and some judges of the aforementioned court.

As part of this trip, they have also met representatives of the Venice Commission, notably Simona Granata, from the Constitutional Cooperation Division, and Günter Schirmer, head of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Finally, Ribó and de Bruecker have met, on one side, with Philippe Boillat, Head of the Directorate General of Human Rights and the Rule of Law of the Council of Europe; and on the other with Wolfram Bechtel, representative of the Secretariat of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe.

The main objective of these meetings was to promote the institutional role of the Ombudsman in the framework of European organizations for human rights.

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The Catalan Ombudsman analyzes the independence of the Spanish judiciary and recommends that it not be used to solve political conflicts

08/05/2017

Report

Human rights regression: Elected officials’ freedom of expression and the separation of powers in the kingdom of Spain

The Catalan Ombudsman recommends the Spanish State to fully comply with the several international statements –GRECO, Venice Commission, and the United Nations–that called for reforms to guarantee the separation of powers.
 
The institution sustains that criminal measures should be limited as much as possible to scenarios of violence, turmoil and in general, any true risk to the integrity of the State.
 
The Catalan Ombudsman determines thatJudgment 42/2014of the Spanish Constitutional Court was the starting point for attributing legal effects to a parliamentary resolution of a merely political character. By changing this criterion, Judgment 42/2014 has allowed the prosecution of the members of the Presiding Committee of the Catalan Parliament.
 
The institution alerts that an excessive intervention of criminal law in social and political sphere brings about a reduction of individual freedom and  the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
 
The Catalan Ombudsman recalls that the Special Rapporteur of the UN, Pablo de Greiff, on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, states that Spain has not faced up to its past, or done sufficient justice. 

The Ombudsman of Catalonia has submitted to the Catalan Parliament the monographic report Human rights regression: Elected officials’ freedom of expression and the separation of powers in the kingdom of Spain. The report responds to the mandate of the Catalan Ombudsman in the defense of rights and freedoms in Catalonia. It analyzesthe democratic regression in rights and freedoms that have been denounced in annual reports 2014, 2015 and 2016 and several monographic reports submitted to the Catalan Parliament.Although this report does not derive from the motion of March 30thof the Catalan Parliament,it can partially respond to some of the matters brought up therein. 

The report states that Spain is suffering democratic regressions that affect fundamental rights and freedoms recognized in the national and international legal frameworks, with special impact being experienced in Catalonia.

The warning statements for these setbacks, unfit to rule of law, have crossed the state level have been echoed by prominent international organizations, such as GRECO, the Venice Commission and the rapporteur of the United Nations who have called for reforms to ensure the separation of powers.

The report denounces the instrumentalization of the judiciary by the Spanish Government, especially evident with regards to the political conflict in recent years with the Catalan institutions. In this sense, the institution sustainsthere must be a return to traditional constitutional case law, in which parliamentary resolutions for political momentum did not have legal effects, and were not jurisdictionally challengeable. It is the new interpretation of the Spanish Constitutional Court that has allowed to criminally charge the President and other members of the Presiding Committee of the Parliament of Catalonia.

Furthermore, it stresses that the reform of the Constitutional Court in 2015 driven by the Popular Party has become one of the leading exponents of the blurred separation of powers in Spain, because of the sanctioning authority granted to the Constitutional Court. This formula is practically unknown in comparative law, as showed the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which has clearly criticized that the Constitutional Court decides about the separation of elected officials.

To the Ombudsman’s opinion, the influence of the Executive over the Prosecutor’s Office has been apparent in judicial proceedings involving politicians for acts committed in the exercise of their duties and has led tothe accusation and sentencing of the former president of the Government of Catalonia and three ministers of his cabinet.

Regarding the criminal charges against elected officials related to freedom of expression and disobedience (elected official Joan Coma, Mayor of Berga, Montserrat Venturós,and some elected officials of Badalona City Hall), the Ombudsman suggests that possible interpretations must be sought oriented to avoiding the use of criminal proceedings to solve political conflicts. In this context, measures against individuals, especially those holding elected office, should be limited as much as possible to scenarios of violence, turmoil and in general, any true risk to the integrity of the State. Consideration must be given to the possibility of allowing the defendants who do not wish to appear voluntarily to notify the court, making it possible to continue with the trial and proceedings without having to make any arrests.

In light of scandals such as the revelation of conspiratory conversations between the then-Minister of Home Affairs and the previous director of the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia, the Spanish government must adopt all measures necessary to investigate what transpired, without prejudice to determining any criminal or political liabilities that may arise.

To the ombudsman’s opinion, interferences and shortcomings in electoral processes must also have an appropriate answer from competent bodies (Prosecutor’s Office and electoral board, depending on the case).

The document also refers to the Report of the Special Rapporteur of the UN, Pablo de Greiff, on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, in which it was shown that Spain has not faced up to its past, or done sufficient justice.

According to de Greiff, “The most serious shortcomings are to be found in the spheres of truth and justice. No State policy was ever established with respect to truth; there is no official information and no mechanisms for elucidating the truth".

The report submitted by the Ombudsman of Catalonia also shows that there is an abuse of criminal categories of glorification of terrorism and crimes for hate speech. Regarding the glorification of terrorism, the ombudsman showed some examples such the puppeteers or Cassandra Vera, who was condemned for joking about the death of Carrero Blanco in a terror attack. According to the Ombudsman, it is necessary to review the legislation in force and case law doctrine to achieve a perfect balance with hate crimes, glorification of terrorism and freedom of expression.

The report also outlines thatthe apparent deterioration of democratic quality is not exclusive to the Spanish State. In early 2017, the Catalan Ombudsman began two ex-officio actions following statements made by Catalan political authorities which, at the very least, could be deemed unfortunate. First, a statement that implied that the Government of Catalonia had obtained tax data of citizens. Second, the remarks made by the Catalan Minister of Governance, in which she encouraged civil servants to request a holiday to support former president on the first day of the trial for the 9N independence consultation.

The report has been submitted to the Parliament of Catalonia, requesting that it be discussed in the plenary. It has also been submitted to the European Commissioner for Human Rights, the Spanish Ombudsman, the governments of Spain and Catalonia and the Spanish Parliament, among others.

Access to report in pdf format 

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