Statement regarding the judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court about the ban from public office of the president of the government of Catalonia


Today, the judgment of the Second Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court in the appeal filed by the Mr. Joaquim Torra Pla, President of the Government of Catalonia, against the judgment of 19 December 2019 of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia has been announced. In this ruling, the Supreme Court confirms the ruling of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia and bans the President of the Government of Catalonia from “holding public office”.

Before this situation, the Catalan Ombudsman states the following:

1. The display of banners and symbols of a political nature in public buildings, when it is protected by a democratic decision and has as its pretension a specific claim linked to the defence of rights, must be considered protected by the right to freedom of expression. In this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman ruled in his resolution of 17 September 2018.

2. Notwithstanding the above, in the election period it is necessary to extreme the neutrality of this type of institutional buildings and, for this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman recommended to the President of the Catalan Government in a decision of March 15, 2019 the removal of the banner requesting the release of political prisoners, in compliance with the decision taken by the Spanish Central Electoral Board.

3. The ban from holding public office of a democratically elected president for delaying the execution of the Central Electoral Board’s mandate by three days is, however, completely disproportionate and therefore contrary to the basic principles of criminal law. The maintenance of the banner had a vindictive, political character, which should be criminally irrelevant, as happens in most legal systems of democratic countries. It must not be forgotten that the President of the Government of Catalonia was already administratively sanctioned for this.

4. Evidence of this disproportion is that this ban from public office is a direct violation of the right to passive suffrage of President Torra, who was a Member of Parliament until his ban sentenced by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia. The restriction of such a fundamental right as the right to be elected in competitive elections can only be understood in cases of the most serious crimes.

Indirectly, the decision also violates the right to active suffrage of all citizens of Catalonia who participated in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia on December 17, 2017.

For the above reasons, the Catalan Ombudsman considers that this ruling violates fundamental rights of the President of the Government of Catalonia and undermines democracy in our country.

This statement is sent to European human rights bodies to their knowledge and consideration.