Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan ombudswoman argues that restorative amnesty is important to resolve the Catalan conflict

25/10/2023

She has taken part in a round table discussion in Luxembourg on the role of ombudsperson institutions in national conflicts

The Catalan ombudswoman, Esther Giménez-Salinas, has travelled to Luxembourg to participate in the seminar “Crisis management: what is the role of the ombudsperson?”, organised by the Association of Ombudsmen and Mediators of the Francophonie (AOMF), which has taken place on 24 and 25 October.

The main mission of the AOMF is to promote the role of ombudsperson institutions in French-speaking countries in Europe, America and Africa, and to encourage the development and consolidation of independent mediation institutions.

The seminar was organised around the role of ombudsperson institutions in three specific situations: a health crisis, a national crisis and a climate crisis.

During the round table on national crises, which also included the ombudswomen of Burkina Faso and the Principality of Monaco, Esther Giménez-Salinas has spoken about the conflict between Catalonia and Spain, which intensified after the referendum of 1 October 2017. This referendum had a number of consequences, such as the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to the Catalan government and administration (which started the process of suspending the region’s self-government), and the imprisonment and exile of those accused of organising it.

The Catalan ombudswoman has given a historical overview of the conflict, which in her opinion began with the amendment of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006. She also wanted to denounce the criminal dimension that this conflict has taken on, despite it being an eminently political crisis: "The judicialisation of political conflicts is not a good option, not even for justice itself", she said.

She has also stressed the importance of the granting of pardons, which were a first step towards normalisation, but she has pointed out that "there is still a long way to go and many open wounds". She has also welcomed the removal of the crime of sedition from the Penal Code, as "it was an outdated crime, not in line with European legislation and with excessively high penalties".

She has concluded her speech by saying that the amnesty route may sometimes seem unfair, but it is necessary. For it to be possible, it must incorporate the principles of restorative justice and meet three conditions: it must bring social peace, it must have positive consequences that outweigh the harm, and it must be supported by a broad majority.

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''Nothing about us, without us!''

13/09/2023

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Two young Catalan students took part in an international conference to discuss the role of children's rights institutions

The Youth Advisory Council of the Catalan Ombudsman is a tool that gives children and young people the opportunity to participate and be listened to

Two members of the Youth Advisory Council of the Catalan Ombudsman participated in a meeting of the European Network of Young Advisors (ENYA), which took place in Malta at the beginning of July. The aim of the conference was to discuss the role of institutions for the defence of children's rights.

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child included for the first time the right to participation of children and young people under the age of eighteen. However, our society does not always have the channels and opportunities to listen to children and young people.

With the aim of gathering young people’s opinions, the Catalan Ombudsman created the Youth Advisory Council in the 2007/2008 school year. 17 students aged between fourteen and fifteen from 8 Catalan schools took part in its latest edition.

ENYA organises an annual forum where young people from different countries, accompanied by their coordinators, can meet, get to know other cultures and, above all, discuss and exchange views on a pre-selected topic that each group has worked on in advance. This year's meeting in Malta was attended by 35 young people from all over Europe. Leila Serroukh, a student from the Sants secondary school in Barcelona, and Alba Molina, from the Terrassa secondary school, represented the Youth Advisory Council.

As a result of the work done during these days, the young participants concluded that there is a need to increase the visibility, accessibility and the independent role of children's rights institutions. The recommendations resulting from the meeting have been summarised in a document and will be presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children (ENOC), which will take place in Brussels from 19 to 21 September. Leila Serroukh will again be the Catalan representative.

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Rafael Ribó receives the International Ombudsman Institute's gold medal for his career in the defence of rights

08/05/2023

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Ribó thanked the recognition and highlighted the importance of the International Ombudsman Institute, especially in the defence of ombudsmen who are under threat

Rafael Ribó, who was Catalan Ombudsman from 2004 to 2022, received today the Gold Medal of Merit awarded by the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) for his commitment and work with this body. The ceremony, which took place in Vienna, sought to recognise Ribó's work in the protection of human rights throughout the world, his dedication, and the support he has shown to his counterparts who have been threatened for carrying out the tasks entrusted to them.

The award ceremony was presided over by Chris Field, President of the IOI and Ombudsman of Western Australia, who wanted to highlight "Rafael Ribó's passion for human rights".

During his speech, Ribó, who expressed his emotion and gratitude for this recognition, highlighted the importance of the IOI in guaranteeing people's rights. He also mentioned the challenges faced by ombudsman institutions around the world, including defending ombudsmen that are under threat and applying the Venice principles, which were drawn up with the aim of being an international benchmark for the guidelines that states should follow to protect these institutions.

The International Ombudsman Institute was established in 1978 and is an international organisation of ombudsman institutions that brings together ombudsmen from all over the world. Its main objectives are to promote the concept of the ombudsman and to foster the exchange of information and experiences between the different institutions. Rafael Ribó was its European director since 2009 and its regional president for Europe since 2016.

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First meeting between the Catalan Ombudswoman and the European Commissioner for Human Rights

16/02/2023

In the words of Commissioner Djuna Mijatovic, "when we talk about human rights, we speak the same language"

The Catalan Ombudswoman, Esther Giménez-Salinas, has travelled to Brussels and Strasbourg to meet with different European authorities working to protect citizens' rights and guarantees.                                                                                                                            Today she met in Strasbourg with Dunja Mijatovic, European Commissioner for Human Rights, to discuss the role of European ombudsmen in difficult times such as the present, in a context of social, energy and economic crisis.

In February 2022, the Commissioner called for the reform of the Law on Citizen Security to bring it into line with European and international human rights standards. In relation to the Pegasus case, she called on Council of Europe member states to impose a strict moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of spyware, and to put in place a precise human rights compliant legislative framework for the use of modern surveillance technology.

She has also repeatedly raised concerns about the serious human rights violations against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, which she says have become a permanent feature of migration control practices at many of Europe's borders.

The Catalan Ombudsman has also met with the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, the first woman to hold the post in the 73-year history of the institution. 

In Strasbourg, Giménez-Salinas also held a meeting with Spain's permanent ambassador to the Council of Europe, Manuel Montobbio, to discuss the Venice Commission's approach to the challenges of the rule of law, democracy and globalisation.

During her stay in Brussels on 15 February, the Ombudswoman met with Marc Bertrand, Ombudsman of Wallonia and Vice-President of the Association of Ombudsmen and Mediators of the Francophonie (AOMF), with the aim of outlining strategies for collaboration between the two institutions in guaranteeing the basic rights of citizens.

The AOMF's main mission is to promote the role of ombudsmen in French-speaking countries and to foster the development and consolidation of independent mediation institutions. During the meeting it was agreed to continue exchanging experiences to improve the guarantee of people's rights.

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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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