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



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.