Current events: news and press releases

ENOC calls for adequate policies to fulfil children's right to a healthy environment

21/09/2022

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The 26th Annual Meeting focused on climate justice

The recommendations made by the young participants were reflected in a final declaration, which has been approved by the General Assembly.

The Deputy for the Defence of Children's and Adolescents' Rights, Maria Jesús Larios; an advisor of her area, Eva Querol, and a representative of the Youth Advisory Council of the Catalan Ombudsman, Iriza Noor, travelled this week to Reykjavik (Iceland) to participate in the 26th Annual Meeting of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC), which on this occasion dealt with the issue of climate justice.

During the year, all participants have been working intensively on the topic of climate justice in order to contribute valuable knowledge. The recommendations they presented have been reflected in the ENOC 2022 Declaration, adopted by the General Assembly, which calls on institutions at European, national and regional levels to strive to realize the rights of children and young people to a healthy environment and to take the necessary measures to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis in the future.

In particular, ENOC urges national, regional and European authorities to adopt the following recommendations:

  • The design of environmental policies must take into account the impact on future generations.
  • It is necessary to guarantee a comprehensive and compulsory education in human rights, including the environment, at all educational stages.
  • It is necessary to ensure that all children can seek, receive and disseminate reliable information on the environment and climate change.
  • It is necessary to require that all consultations on environmental policies include the perspective of children.
  • It is necessary to ensure that all children and young people who participate in the defence of the environment can enjoy their right to freedom of association and assembly.

In previous years, annual meetings have addressed the impact of the pandemic on children, and the rights of children in digital environments.

ENOC was founded in 1997 and currently has 43 members from 34 States.

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Rafael Ribó concludes his mandate as Catalan ombudsman

13/07/2022

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Rafael Ribó was elected síndic for the first time in July 2004 and was re-elected in 2010

Rafael Ribó ends today his mandate as síndic de greuges de Catalunya (Catalan ombudsman). He first took office in 2004 and was re-elected in 2010, in accordance with the new Act on the Síndic de Greuges.

Over the course of both terms of office, the institution has processed more than 370,000 actions; has assisted more than 617,000 people and has presented more than 100 reports in Parliament (42 annual and 66 monographic), with their corresponding appearances in the Plenary and the Commission of the Catalan Ombudsman (more than 150 in total). In addition, 42 special monitoring agreements have been signed with local councils and county councils and more than 1,200 trips have been made throughout the territory to collect complaints and queries.

Ribó has been a member of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) since 2006, holding various positions: He served two terms (2009-2012 and 2016-2021) as president of the IOI European Board of Directors and also served as a director of the IOI World Board.

He was also one of the founding members of the International Association of Language Commissionners (IALC), established in Barcelona in 2014. He also promoted, with other ombudsmen, the National Energy Ombudsmen Network (NEON), formally founded in Brussels in January 2015.

At the end of May, Ribó gave a speech on the state of rights in the Sant Pau modernista complex, and it served to take stock of his term of office at the head of the institution. In his speech, Ribó warned about the situation of certain basic rights in our society and concluded that it is necessary to defend rights beyond laws to evolve towards a more democratic system that respects people. He also stressed the need to focus on people and move beyond the concept of citizens, which can be restrictive in relation to rights.

Today we present a press dossier with the competences that the institution has acquired over the years, the most important figures, the reports published, and the conferences and seminars held.

Rafael Ribó thanks all the employees of the institution for the work done and encourages the new ombudswoman, Esther Giménez-Salinas, to continue fighting to guarantee the rights of people, especially the most vulnerable.

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The Plenary votes Esther Giménez-Salinas as Catalan ombudswoman

30/06/2022

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The plenary of Thursday 30 June 2022 held the specific session to elect Esther Giménez-Salinas i Colomer Catalan ombudswoman (síndica de greuges), in replacement of Rafael Ribó

With 91 votes in favour and 39 votes against, Giménez-Salinas, the sole candidate, has been elected for a six-year term. She will take office shortly, in an institutional act in the Catalan Parliament.

​​Esther Giménez-Salinas i Colomer holds a PhD in Law (1978), has a Law Degree (1971), and she is also a graduate in Applied Psychology (1976) by the University de Barcelona. She has been rector of the University Ramon Llull (2002-2012), member of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (1996-2001), head of Institutional Relations at the Catalan Ministry of Justice (1995-1996), deputy director of the UB Institute of Criminology (1993-1996), member of the Council of Europe's Scientific Committee on Criminal Policy (1993-1997) and Director General of the Centre for Legal Studies and Specialised Training of the Catalan Ministry of Justice (1983-1993).

The first appointed Catalan Ombudsman (síndic de greuges) was Frederic Rahola, elected in 1984; he was re-elected in 1989 and served until his death on 23 November 1992. Anton Cañellas succeeded him in February 1993 and was re-elected in 1998 for a second five-year term, which lasted until June 2004. Finally, Rafael Ribó began his term as Catalan Ombudsman in 2004, and was re-elected in 2010 for nine years, in accordance with Act 24/2009, of December 23, 2009, on the Síndic de Greuges.

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The Catalan Ombudsman concludes that spying with Pegasus is an attack on the fundamental rights of the affected parties

29/06/2022

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The Catalan Ombudsman calls for urgent reform of the Official Secrets Law

Although judicial authorisation has been obtained in 18 cases, fundamental rights have been violated

In the rest of the cases, legality was not respected, and interference with fundamental rights was unrestricted and uncontrolled

The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, presented this morning the report Pegasus case: violations of the rights to privacy, defence and other rights.

In relation to the espionage cases, the Catalan Ombudsman has already opened two ex officio proceedings: the first one, in May 2020, for the alleged spying on the then President of the Catalan Parliament Mr. Roger Torrent; the second one, in April 2022, for the alleged spying on several politicians and members of civil society, which he transferred to the Defensor del Pueblo (Spanish Ombudsman), and which was resolved last May 18, after having had access to all the judicial authorisations related to the spying.

The report presented today is divided into two parts: the first one is technical and sets out the technological characteristics and operation of these programmes, and the second one focuses on how these programmes can affect fundamental rights.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman wanted to stress that global cyberespionage systems are a reality in Europe and that they will provoke debate and reflection on the way in which intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies should control the use of these technological resources. Moreover, it is certain that governments and intelligence agencies will need these services and will have to learn how to defend themselves and avoid situations such as those created by Pegasus.

The information available allows us to conclude that there is no doubt that the use of these spying systems on eighteen private citizens may have entailed an infringement of fundamental rights, despite having respected formal legality, because it was carried out with the corresponding judicial authorisation.

On the other hand, for the rest of the people allegedly spied on with Pegasus, more than forty, everything points to the fact that legal framework was not respected and that the interference with their fundamental rights has been unrestricted and without any control whatsoever. Specifically, it can be presumed that there have been unjustified rights violations: personal, family, and professional privacy; the right of defence; the right to confidentiality between client and lawyer; the right to participate in the management of public affairs by themselves or through their representatives, and the right to a judge predetermined by law.

Considering the seriousness of these facts, and with the aim of safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Catalan Ombudsman considers that reparation by the public authorities involved is necessary.

The Catalan Ombudsman also notes that the intervention in "communications", constitutionally and legally provided for as a limit to the right to privacy, does not cover, under any circumstances – not even with judicial authorisation –, access to all the information on smartphones.

In this regard, it calls for urgent reform of the Spanish Official Secrets Law to bring it into line with the rules of the Venice Commission and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). He also stresses the need to establish a public and collegiate system of judicial authorisation and control over the observations of communications requested within the framework of the law.

The Catalan Ombudsman also believes it is essential to set a time limit on communications observations, given that with the current legal design they could be indefinite, without the observed subject having committed any infringement of the legal system or being aware that he or she is being monitored.

Once the governmental observation action has been completed and concluded with an evaluative judicial resolution, consideration should be given to informing the individuals concerned, with full access to the administrative and judicial files, so they can make whatever allegations deemed appropriate regarding the possible infringement of their rights.

Finally, in the Catalan Ombudsman's opinion, the law should also make explicit that the observations of members of political parties, trade unions and legal associations are excluded from investigation, and that it is forbidden to observe or interfere in client-lawyer relationship in any way.

During the press conference, the Catalan Ombudsman referred to the recent publication, in the framework of the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly, of a new report by the Council of Europe investigating the impact of Pegasus spyware on human rights. The Ombudsman also referred to the investigation launched by rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt a few months ago into this controversial spyware, following motion 15373 (Pegasus and similar spyware and secret state surveillance).

The report has been submitted to the Parliament of Catalonia, and will also be addressed to the Spanish Ombudsman, the Spanish Parliament, and various institutions of the Council of Europe.

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The Council of Europe approves the publication of the follow-up report on Resolution 2381/2021 on Spain and Turkey

22/06/2022

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The final document incorporates elements of the Catalan Ombudsman’s appearance before the Committee and the reports prepared by the Catalan Ombudsman

The Catalan Ombudsman’s report indicated that most of the recommendations of the Resolution have not been adopted

The published text states that the Supreme Court has decided to review the granting of pardons

At yesterday’s meeting, the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights discussed the degree of compliance with the recommendations contained in the report it approved a year ago, entitled Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?, which addressed the situation of the rule of law in Spain and Turkey. According to the rapporteur, the purpose of the follow-up report is to assess whether Turkey and Spain have implemented the Assembly’s recommendations addressed to both countries in the Resolution, and to what extent.

Among other things, the report stresses that several criminal cases are pending against officeholders or former officeholders in Catalonia, with special mention of the various politicians living abroad, and expresses concern that the pardons are subject to review by the Supreme Court and that the review of the crimes of sedition and rebellion is still pending.

The report cites the Catalan Ombudsman on several occasions. For example, it mentions that the institution notes that most proceedings against public officials have not been completed, as many are still being investigated. The entire police force of the Generalitat de Catalunya (police officers and political leaders) was acquitted, as were the members of the Electoral Commission of Catalonia, although for the latter the prosecution’s appeal is still pending. Another group of about 50 people, including a number of mayors, are still being investigated.

The report also recalls a previous report by the Parliamentary Assembly endorsing the Venice Commission’s Rule of law checklist, which recalls the essential elements of the rule of law as defined by the Council of Europe, which are: 1) legality, including a transparent, accountable and democratic legislative process; 2) legal certainty; 3) prevention of abuse of powers; 4) access to justice before independent and impartial tribunals, as well as for the review of administrative proceedings; 5) respect for persons and rights; and 6) equality before the law and non-discrimination. The report also includes the Catalan Ombudsman’s reminder that the Assembly has already warned against a formalist interpretation of the rule of law.

Last April, Rafael Ribó appeared before the Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe to assess compliance with the recommendations made thus far. In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman has this week delivered to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly an updated version of its report, Seguiment de la Resolució 2381/2021 de l'Assemblea Parlamentària del Consell d'Europa (“Follow-up on Resolution 2381/2021 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe”), which evaluated the degree of achievement of the recommendations made.

This latest report from the Catalan Ombudsman was included in the conclusions presented yesterday, which were defended by MP Boriss Cilevičs, the lead author of the report.

The Catalan Ombudsman has recently addressed the Committee to report that there have been no changes in matters such as the reform of the crimes of rebellion and sedition, the cases before the various lower jurisdictions or the Court of Auditors, the development of the Dialogue Table and so on. In conclusion, it finds that the description of the degree of compliance with the different recommendations of the resolution addressed to Spain is still fully valid on most points.

In particular, one new development focuses on the second recommendation of Resolution 2381/2021 addressed to Spain, which called for the pardon or release of Catalan politicians convicted for their role in organising the referendum of October 2017, in addition to considering the possibility of nullifying the extradition procedures filed against Catalan politicians abroad. While in late April, the Catalan Ombudsman found that the Central Government had partially pardoned those sentenced to imprisonment by Judgment 459/2019, today it should be noted that the Fifth Chamber of the Supreme Court has changed its initial criteria and has decided to review the granting of these pardons. In particular, on 24 May 2022, it accepted the appeals filed by three political parties and other appellants against the initial refusal to review the pardons.

In this context, the Catalan Ombudsman recalls that, in accordance with Spanish law, the decision to grant a pardon or not is freely and exclusively the responsibility of the executive and that judicial review of this decision can only be based on strictly procedural issues. The change in the Court’s criteria once again troubles the pardoned individuals with the prospect of possible revocation, which could mean re-imprisoning them to finish serving their sentences.

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