Current events: news and press releases

Representatives of the Young Advisors Council discuss at the ENYA Forum on the impact of COVID-19 on children's and adolescents' rights

06/07/2021

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From the work of these two days, several recommendations have emerged related to the fields of education, prevention of violent situations, mental health, poverty, new technologies and play and recreational activities

They also call for more child and youth mental health resources to meet current needs

The Catalan Ombudsman's Young Advisors Council, represented by Àngela Valldepérez and Joan Boixaderas, took part in the ENYA Forum, which this year was organised by Malta on 1-2 July, under the title "Let's Talk Young, Let's Talk about the Impact of COVID-19 on Children's Rights".

ENYA (European Network of Young Advisors) is a participatory project for children and adolescents that is carried out with the support of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC). The purpose of this network is to bring together the young people involved with ENOC members and to facilitate the transmission of their opinions linked to the annual ENOC work theme.

The participating boys and girls from different European territories (Albania, Andalusia, the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Catalonia, Scotland, France, Wales, Greece, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, the Basque Country, Slovakia and Ukraine) discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the rights of children and adolescents.

As a result of the joint work, they have collected several recommendations related to the fields of education, prevention of violence, mental health, poverty, new technologies, and play and recreational activities, among which it is worth highlighting the desire to improve student participation, taking into account that the pandemic crisis highlighted this systemic deficiency, improve online learning and take measures to avoid the exclusion of pupils with special educational needs, and also to respond to the needs of pupils and their families for accompaniment and support.

They also stated the need to adopt measures for the provision of prevention and support services for all forms of violence in exceptional situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic that may occur again, to guarantee a holistic system of child protection and an immediate response that prevents secondary victimisation of children, as well as more child and adolescent mental health resources to provide an adequate response to the needs of children and adolescents.

The young people also coincided in demanding that institutions take measures to guarantee the participation of children and adolescents in decision-making on issues related to them in similar situations.

It has been a very intense and profitable two days for the participants, an opportunity to express their opinions and to feel listened to.

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The Catalan Ombudsman investigates the death of an inmate at Brians II prison

25/06/2021

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The institution will request information from the Department of Justice on the events

It also opened an ex officio action in order to look into the homophobic aggression suffered by two people on Saint John’s Eve

The Catalan Ombudsman has learned through the media of the death of an inmate at the Brians II Penitentiary Center. According to the published news, the body of the inmate was found by prison staff last Wednesday, June 23rd.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman asks the Secretary General for Criminal Measures, Reinsertion and Victim Assistance, of the Department of Justice, to inform the institution as soon as possible on the circumstances surrounding these events and the measures taken to investigate the case.

An ex officio action has also been opened to study a serious homophobic aggression

At the same time, the Catalan Ombudsman has also opened an ex officio investigation into the homophobic attack that took place on Saint John’s eve in Gràcia neighborhood, in Barcelona. According to the information published, two people were attacked because of their sexual orientation and had to be taken to hospital for bruising.

Once again, the Catalan Ombudsman wishes to show its solidarity with people who have been harassed, threatened or attacked because of their sexual identity or orientation, and calls on the public to get involved in defending their rights.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman wishes to highlight that an increase in cases of homophobic violence and incidents motivated by LGTBI-phobia has been detected in Catalonia. The Catalan Ombudsman's Gender Equality Plan establishes the commitment to open ex officio actions in cases of LGBTI-phobic physical aggression. And, in this context, the Catalan Ombudsman has already initiated 12 actions for homophobic aggressions, physical or verbal, in Catalonia since the beginning of 2020.

Regarding the specific case, the Catalan Ombudsman has addressed the Directorate General of the Police, the Directorate General for Equality and the Barcelona City Council to request information on these events.

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The Catalan Ombudsman proposes to Parliament the creation of a committee to follow up on the recommendations of the report approved by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

23/06/2021

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The report had the collaboration of the Catalan Ombudsman

The institution recommends that the Spanish authorities reform the crimes of rebellion and sedition to avoid disproportionate sentences for non-violent transgressions, among others

The rapporteur is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations made over a period of one year

Today, the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, met with the President of the Catalan Parliament, Laura Borràs, to analyse the recent approval by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of the report Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate? and to propose measures to follow up on the recommendations it contains.

This report is the result of a lengthy drafting process, based on a parliamentary motion and the support of the Secretary General of the Human Rights Directorate of the Council of Europe, and involved visits to the countries under study, with the support of the respective governments, including the Spanish government. The report is solidly based on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the statements of other institutions of the Council of Europe itself, such as the Venice Commission, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

At the request of the Council of Europe and the rapporteur himself, Boris Cilevičs, as well as the Technical-Parliamentary Assistance Directorate of the Congress of Deputies, the work in Catalonia was carried out in collaboration with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman, on the one hand, was the basis for meetings and interviews of the rapporteur's team with entities in our country and, on the other hand, the Ombudsman's reports on rights and freedoms were used as a basis and supporting documents in the part of the arguments.

The report proposes, among other things, the necessary political -not criminal- treatment of the conflict, the modification or reinterpretation of crimes such as sedition, rebellion and embezzlement, the granting of pardons, the curtailment of legal proceedings opened against other people for reasons linked to the referendum of 1 October and dialogue between the parties. It also places the emphasis on recommending the release without delay of all politicians who fall within the definition of political prisoners established by the Resolution 1900 (2012) and states the absence of violence in the actions of October 2017. The report also shows that in Europe there is no margin for the criminal prosecution of politicians for acts carried out in the exercise of their mandate and that freedom of expression and the possibility of questioning the status quo of a state must be protected.

The same report provides for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations made over the course of a year. In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman asks the Parliament of Catalonia to contribute to this supervision and to create a specific study committee to monitor and evaluate the level of compliance with the measures and recommendations contained in the report. More specifically, according to the Catalan Ombudsman, this committee should verify that:

  • the crimes of sedition and rebellion are reviewed so that they do not lead to disproportionate sentences for non-violent actions;
  • there is the immediate release of persons deprived of their freedom by Supreme Court Judgment 459/2019;
  • stop prosecution and sanctions against other politicians for reasons related to the 1-October referendum;
  • the crime of embezzlement is reinterpreted in such a way that it only generates responsibility for real and quantified losses in the public budget;
  • avoid demanding any ideological change as a counterpart to the above measures.

Based on the experience of the Catalan Ombudsman's office in the subject matter of the Commission's analysis, and on the work carried out in the preparation of the Cilevičs report, the Ombudsman proposed to the President that the institution should have a permanent supervisory and proposal status within the Commission, in order to be able to directly analyse the work carried out, and also to make proposals for study and follow-up within the framework of the Commission's work.

In the event that the creation of this Committee is deemed appropriate, the Catalan Ombudsman proposes that the team in charge of the report, Mr. Boriss Cilevičs, rapporteur and president of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and Günter Schirmer, head of the Secretariat of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and head of the Secretariat of the Committee on the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Catalan Ombudsman continues to insist on the need to initiate an open and constructive dialogue that allows political differences to be addressed in a democratic context, even on issues that are sensitive for the State, always with full respect for the rule of law.

On June 21, the Catalan Ombudsman organized a side event to the Assembly debate to analyse the concept of freedom of expression in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, with the participation of Françoise Tulkens, former vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights; Josep Casadevall, former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman of the United Kingdom. Following the event, the Catalan Ombudsman emphasised that all the speakers concluded that Cilevičs report had very well reflected the principles of the ECHR and highlighted the importance of respecting the freedom of expression of politicians and parliamentarians, which is only exceptionally limited by hate speech.

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PACE Side Event: Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?

21/06/2021

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The Catalan Ombudsman has organised a parallel session to debate freedom of expression in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights

Freedom of expression can only be limited in exceptional situations and in a proportionate manner when it is an incitement to hatred or violence

On June 3, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe approved the draft of the resolution entitled “Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate??”. The draft calls on the Spanish authorities to reform the crimes of rebellion and sedition in order to avoid disproportionate sentences for non-violent transgressions or to ensure that they cannot be interpreted as if the decriminalisation of the organisation of illegal referendums in 2005 was ineffective.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman has organised a side event to discuss on freedom of expression in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, before the vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the draft resolution, expected this afternoon.

The session, which was held in online format due to the pandemic, was chaired by the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, and was attended by Françoise Tulkens, former Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights; Josep Casadevall, former judge of the European Court of Human Rights; and Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman of the United Kingdom.

During her speech, Françoise Tulkens spoke about the general principles of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding freedom of expression in general but, above all, regarding politicians. In her speech, she stressed that freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy and a free society. In this sense, she stated that, according to the ECHR, politicians have a broad freedom of expression and a higher level of protection, as they are representatives of the people, which can only be limited in exceptional situations and in a proportional manner. Specifically, freedom of expression can only be curtailed in the case of incitement to hatred or violence.

In his speech, Josep Casadevall focused on analysing the content of the resolution. “Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate??", especially with regard to the rights and freedoms protected by the Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the ECtHR. Casadevall concluded that the Cilevičs report has understood the principles of the ECHR very well and congratulated the author. On the basis of the Court's case law, he also explained that in the face of defamation or injustice against a person, the principle of equality is imposed, whereby no person - neither a president nor a head of state - is more protected before the law or can have preferential treatment over others.

Firstly, Rob Berhens explained how freedom of expression is regulated in the UK and the limits that apply to it, highlighting the total freedom of expression enjoyed by MPs in the British Parliament. According to his criteria, politicians, as representatives of citizens, must have the same restrictions, so that they cannot incite racial or gender hatred or violence. Without these guarantees, there is a risk that politicians will stray from the objective for which they were elected.

In another area, he also expressed his concern about the lack of protection being given to justice officials and ombudsmen when they have questioned the decisions or actions of some public representatives. In particular, Rob Berhens mentioned the case of Poland, where the ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, was threatened for having defended human rights in the country, and the case of Catalonia, where Rafael Ribó has also been questioned on some occasions for the work he has carried out in the defence of rights and freedoms in Catalonia.

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PACE Side Event: Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?

17/06/2021

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The Catalan Ombudsman is organizing an on-line side event to discuss on freedom of expression in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights

Life streaming in original version
Life streaming in Catalan
Life streaming in English
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On June 3, the Council of Europe's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights approved the draft resolution entitled "Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?". The draft calls on the Spanish authorities to reform the crimes of rebellion and sedition in order to avoid disproportionate penalties for non-violent transgressions or so that they cannot be interpreted as invalidating the decriminalization of the organization of illegal referendums of 2005.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman is organizing a parallel session to discuss on freedom of expression in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, which will take place on June 21, at 1 pm, before the vote on the draft resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, during the next plenary session.

The streaming will be available as for June 21, 2021 at 12:45 on the following link.

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