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Compte enrere

26 d’oct. 2017


Below is my letter (October 26 2017) to Dr. Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights


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European Court of Human Rights
Rules of Court

Rule 39 – Interim measures 1. The Chamber or, where appropriate, the President of the Section or a duty judge appointed pursuant to paragraph 4 of this Rule may, at the request of a party or of any other person concerned, or of their own motion, indicate to the parties any interim measure which they consider should be adopted in the interests of the parties or of the proper conduct of the proceedings....


Dr. Nils Muižnieks
Council of Europe
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
67075 Strasbourg Cedex

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you (as a private citizen, and not even a law specialist: if you want the endorsement of a dozen or more legally established organisations, please give me 24 hours) to make an urgent appeal. Irreparable damage will be caused to several important human rights of millions of Catalans (and the very relationship between people in Catalonia and people in Spain), should the Spanish government manage to apply, in Catalonia, the horrendous list of measures it has put to the Spanish Senate (where the governing party has an outright majority, and has more or less blackmailed the main opposition party). See http://estaticos.elmundo.es/documentos/2017/10/21/acuerdo_gobierno.pdf

As I am sure you know, the only way the legitimately elected Catalan government can defend itself is by declaring the independence of Catalonia.

The legitimately elected Catalan government is merely complying with its electoral promises as stated very clearly in two election manifestoes: those of Junts pel Sí (PDF), in Bloc 1, and CUP-Crida Constituent (PDF), in Point 1. For reasons best none to themselves, these election manifestoes were not challenged in court in due time by the Prosecutor General or the Spanish government. These coalitions jointly have 72 seats in our Parliament, and the opposition (not all of which is opposed to independence) has 63.

I would ask you to contact the European Court for Human Rights at once, if you feel it should address this issue and not you.

It is not for the Court to decide on this, of course, but I can give you any number of legal sources that make it abundantly clear that a number of these measures go directly against the Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy that the measures are purportedly to ensure compliance with the Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy.

Again, it is not for the Court to decide on this, but I can quote and number of reputable sources that say that by refusing to engage in political dialogue on this issue, since the crisis broke in 2010 (the first Statute of Autonomy ever, agreed by a regional parliament, the Spanish parliament and the people in a referendum, to be maimed by a Constitutional court ruling) the Spanish authorities have veered to seek legal solutions to the very severe, and humiliating political situation the Catalan people find themselves in.

I am especially concerned about Article 2, which among other things states that "Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection".
The position of the Spanish authorities is that the simple act of voting may be in their view be illegal and that the Spanish police were fully justified on October 1st when they injured over a thousand attested Catalan voters at the polling stations when ordered to forcibly withdraw ballot boxes and voting papers.

The organisations involved in the current phase of the Catalan independence movement have from the first, in 2009, abhored violent means. They have brought together huge peaceful, even joyful demonstrations on at least eight occasions, and other smaller ones, such as the candle demonstration on October 17 attended, according to local police, by only a few hundred thousand peaceful demonstrators. Never has there been a single incident: no burnt waste bins, no broken windows. At worst, candle wax had to be removed from the tarmac after this last rally.

This lack of violence on the pro-independence side, despite endless provocations (the October 17 demonstration was in protest against the "preventive" arrest of the current presidents of the two main leading NGOs working towards independence at the garassroots, being accused (by a court which is not competent in such matters) on what I am sure will in the end be shown to be trumped-up charges, is almost certain to disappear dramatically if and when the Spanish government starts to put into effect the measures that undoubtedly amount to an imminent risk of violation of a whole set of rights laid down in the Convention.

I appreciate that the High Commission and/or the Court may never have had to study a case such as this. Given the presence of over ten thousand armed policemen sent on false pretences to Catalonia in September and October by the Spanish government (purportedly to support the Catalan police - link  but in effect to take over control), whose behaviour amounted to xenophobia and racism (they were sent off from their bases to chants of "A por ellos" - Go Get 'Em - and some beat voters on October 1st while saying "Polacos de mierda!" - Fucking Polacks!), given incidents involving these policemen: four were caught ripping down independence flags from private homes one night, and only yesterday there was a drunken brawl in Barcelona; given all this the situation is highly volatile, to put it mildly.

Moreover, ultranationalists have on several occasions since the October 1 referendum attacked and threatened journalists and passersby with complete impunity, even after  having been identified by photographs and videos.

Only by ordering interim restraining measures can an extremely serious social collision be avoided.

Please note that I have not referred to other human rights that the Convention lists, and that the Spanish government's Article 155 proposal will undoubtedly add to those already being violated.

The plan will hit public Catalan television and radio, the plurality of which is strictly controlled already, but which will be controlled to censure information, while the whole of the rest of the Spanish media (I can give you specific evidence) consistently and constantly distort and lie in their coverage of the Catalonia conflict, as denounced even by their own staff in some cases.

I appreciate your embarrassing position and that of the Court. You may feel it unfitting to accept the widespread reports that the legislative, executive and judiciary powers do not act independently, and prefer to give the courts the benefit of the doubt.

You may need specific reference to specific articles in the Convention. As I said I am not a lawyer, but any reasonably educated person can refer to the real, imminent risk of Article 2 being violated, and to violations of Articles 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 (both of these also directly threaten Omnium Cultural and Assemblea Nacional Catalana, according to all reports) and 14.

I am especially concerned by the wording of Article 15 (Derogation in time of emergency) because I am sure that the Spanish authorities will want to refer to it to try and justify the measures that, on the one hand, go directly against what is laid down in the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and, on the other, are the direct and foreseeable result of the total lack of political will, vividly exemplified many times over the past 11 years at the very least, to sit down at a negotiating table to fin a political solution to what is a political problem. It may be that for all that time they have been working towards a situation in which they can claim that a "rebellion" or "sedition" allows peace-loving people to be locked away on criminal charges for 10, 20 or 25 years. Or barred from office. Or crippled with fines.

All in all, once again, as I do not want the High Commissioner or the European Court of Human Rights to be able to say that it was not forewarned of the impending tragedy, I hope you and/or the Court will take urgent interim measures to make its position perfectly clear.

As recently as yesterday, you may know that the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas made a public statement to "deplore the decision of the Spanish Government to suspend Catalan autonomy. This action constitutes retrogression in human rights protection, incompatible with Articles 1, 19, 25 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Pursuant to Articles 10(2) and 96 of the Spanish Constitution, international treaties constitute the law of the land and, therefore, Spanish law must be interpreted in conformity with international treaties." (Source)
Need I say more?

Please act at once, before it is too late. Saturday evening will be too late.

Yours sincerely,

Miquel Strubell

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