Current events: news and press releases

Statement of the Catalan Ombudsman

14/10/2019

Following of the publication of the judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court (TS) in special cause 20907/2017, the Catalan Ombudsman considers it necessary to recall that this serious situation it is mainly due to the repeated lack of institutional dialogue for at least fifteen years to try to solve historical and political problems.

Regardless of a thorough analysis of the sentence in the upcoming weeks, the Catalan Ombudsman reiterates, as pointed out in several reports and statements of recent years that the events that took place in Catalonia during fall of 2017 constituted the exercise of fundamental rights of expression and demonstration. The consideration of these expressions within the criminal type of sedition and the sentences imposed are manifestly disproportionate. The Catalan Ombudsman draws attention to the possible impact of the sentence on the interpretation of the scope of fundamental rights and freedoms and, as it has done so far, will continue to oversee its guarantee and respect. The Catalan Ombudsman will shortly submit a report on this issue.

In any case, neither the sentence of the TS nor the electoral process should prevent the immediate beginning of a constructive, open and omnipresent dialogue to achieve a political solution to the conflict. This dialogue should not be limited only to the political and institutional sphere, but must also take place between the civil societies of Catalonia and the rest of the State, on the one hand, and among actors of all the political and social sensibilities of Catalonia, on the other. And, in this framework, all parties should have the courage to recognize the errors committed during this process.

A key element in facilitating political dialogue would be the release of condemned political and social leaders as soon as possible. In this regard, the Catalan Ombudsman asks the Government and the Spanish Parliament resulting from the elections on November 10 to explore the fastest way to release the convicted persons.

This statement is forwarded to the European Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the same organization, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations and the international and state ombudsmen.

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The Catalan Ombudsman welcomes the approval of the resolution on the ombudsmen of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

10/10/2019

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On the occasion of World Ombudsman Day, the Catalan Ombudsman shared the content of the CoE resolution with European, local and university ombudsmen

The resolution adopted recommends the member states to take the opportune measures to preserve the ombudsman institutions

The resolution strengthens the Venice Principles, which were approved in March 2019, and should serve to shield and consolidate ombudsman institutions as guarantors of democracy

In the World Ombudsman Day, the Catalan Ombudsman disseminated amongst ombudsmen (in Europe and Catalonia) of the resolution (link) that recently approved the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In this regard, the Catalan Ombudsman encourages ombudsmen from all over Europe to continue carrying out the work of defence of rights and to monitor the measures undertaken by the respective governments to implement the aforementioned principles.

The Catalan Ombudsman emphasizes that the resolution adopted recommends to the member States that they take the opportune measures to preserve the independence of the institutions of ombudsman and suggests that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe establishes a mechanism to supervise its implementation.

The Venice Principles is a document approved in March 2019 by the Commission of Venice of the Council of Europe, which the Catalan Ombudsman has transferred to the Parliament of Catalonia and several ombudsmen, since it has been elaborated with the aim to be an international benchmark with regard to the guidelines that States must follow to protect ombudsman institutions. In recent years some of these institutions have experienced several threats, even to their own existence.

Developed from the wide range of ombudsman models around the world, the 25 principles encompass the situations and main elements related to the ombudsman, from election, dismissal or mandates to the financial guarantees and resources necessary for the proper functioning and independence of the institutions. Its objective is to consolidate and strengthen the ombudsman, which plays a crucial role in the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Venice Principles are the result of extensive consultations with the main international reference bodies in this field. The Steering Committee of the Council of Europe for Human Rights has played a significant role in the process. Among the associations of ombudsmen and international organizations that have participated in the development of this text there are the International Ombudsman Institute, a global association of ombudsmen of public administrations in more than 100 countries, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN.

On behalf of the International Ombudsman Institute, as the European President, the Catalan Ombudsman led the consultation that was made to all the ombudsmen of Europe on the recently approved document and also participated in the debates and work prior to its approval.

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The Catalan Ombudsman becomes part of the International Conference of Information Commissions (ICIC)

03/10/2019

Membership at the ICIC represents an opportunity to connect with other authorities around the world to identify trends, good practices and strategic priorities.

The Secretariat of the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) has accepted the request submitted  by the Catalan Ombudsman to join this organization.

The Catalan Ombudsman oversees the activity of public administrations and ensures compliance with the obligations and rights established in the Law on transparency, access to public information and good governance. The Ombudsman, which has the authority to evaluate the aforementioned compliance, has been preparing a detailed annual report with individualized objective data and recommendations from 2016.

As a new member of the ICIC, the Catalan Ombudsman will have access to the closed session of the annual conference, will be able to fully participate in the operation of the network, which includes voting resolutions, to become a member elected of the Executive Committee and participate in task forces.

The ICIC, whose objective is to protect and promote the rights of transparency and access to information throughout the world, organized the first conference in 2003 in Berlin.

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New delay of the Spanish Constitutional Court in appeal resolution in cases of pre-trial detention

02/10/2019

The imminent judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court in Special Case 20907/2017 obliges the Catalan Ombudsman to warn of the possible violation of rights taking into account the intervention of other high courts.

1. The Spanish Constitutional Court has pending for more than a year the resolution of several appeals in which people deprived of liberty in the application of pre-trial detention without bail, which they consider not fitting to the Spanish Constitution and violating of their right to freedom. The precautionary measures were issued at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.

These delays are added to those of other appeals pending for years and that could be relevant to the judgement of the Supreme Court, such as the siege of the Parliament of Catalonia in 2011.

The Catalan Ombudsman notes that the delay in issuing these rulings, which will be difficult before the judgement of the Supreme Court, will lead to the loss of all practical efficacy of future judgments by the Constitutional Court, regarding the rights to freedom of the appellants, causing damages that are impossible to repair and, in fact, in practice it is equivalent to a real denial of justice. Moreover, the delay of the Constitutional Court to pronounce itself can make future rulings on pre-trial detention of international jurisdictions such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) also lose much of its practical effectiveness with regards to the right to freedom of the appellants.

The delay cannot be justified, as the Constitutional Court has sought, in "the complexity and relevance of the appeal", especially if we pay attention to the fact that the it has issued dozens of rulings in which it has accurately defined the content and the scope of the right to freedom regarding the pre-trial detention measure and established a consolidated doctrine in this regard. In addition, it should be taken into account that most of the rulings during the last year were issued before the 12 months since the filing of the appeals, which is why it is necessary to consider that this delay in ruling goes beyond the usual times of the Court.

2. On the other hand, in response to the status of elected MP to the European Parliament of Oriol Junqueras, the Spanish Supreme Court asked for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Union, with regards to the granting of a penitentiary permit to formalize the procedures to acquire the full condition of MP.

Although formally the questions that are the object of the preliminary question are confined to the granting of this penitentiary permit, the bottom line of the matter is that if he obtains it and Junqueras becomes a full member of the European Parliament, he will enjoy parliamentary immunity and can only be tried with the previous concession of a request by the European Parliament.

In this context, and in order to safeguard the procedural rights and the potential parliamentary immunity of Junqueras, the Spanish Supreme Court should refrain from issuing the judgment on cause 20907/2017, at least regarding Junqueras, until the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled.

This statement has been forwarded to the European Commissioner for Human Rights and other institutions of the Council of Europe to their knowledge and consideration.

 

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Statement of the Catalan Ombudsman

27/09/2019

 

Following the arrest of nine people accused of preparing terrorist acts and the ruling of the Spanish National Court ordering pre-trial detention without bail of seven of them, the Catalan Ombudsman states that:

1. All democratic ideas must be able to defend and debate in a peaceful and respectful way respecting the ideas of others. No political aspiration justifies the use of violent means in our society and the Catalan Ombudsman will always condemn the use of violence to do politics. In this sense, it should be noted that demonstrations and demands in recent years regarding the territorial debate in Catalonia have always been peaceful.

2. Every detained person is the holder of fundamental rights recognized in the Spanish Constitution and in the international treaties signed by the Kingdom of Spain, including the right to put the detention in knowledge of a lawyer from the moment of arrest. According to the information available, these rights have not been respected for most of the detainees in this case, who have been under police custody for more than 30 hours without legal aid.

3. Likewise, every detainee has the right to know what is being charged with, which in this case has not been respected because of the secrecy of judicial inquiries decreed by the judge. In this sense, if indeed the inquiry is a reserved matter, it is surprising that the Spanish Civil Guard disseminated images of the alleged explosive material that detainees supposedly would have had. These facts should be investigated, as they constitute a violation of secrecy of judicial inquiries.

4. This presumption of innocence, which is of utmost importance within judicial proceedings, should at least inspire public authorities and political leaders that make public statements about these events. Any expression that at this stage takes for granted the commission of crimes by the detainees does not favour a serious and rigorous inquiry of the facts by the competent judicial authorities.

This statement has been forwarded to the Spanish Ombudsman and other international institutions for the defence of human rights to their knowledge and consideration.

Barcelona, 27th September 2019 

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