Spain must clarify its position in the Catalan case to the European Court

by Lorraine Williamson
The European Court of Human Rights
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MADRID – The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to hear the appeals of nine Catalan separatist leaders convicted by the Spanish Supreme Court. 

The leaders have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 13 years for crimes such as sedition and embezzlement of public funds. Spain has been given until January 12 to make its views known. In June 2021, they were pardoned by the Spanish king and were able to leave prison. 

This ECtHR decision was communicated to former Vice President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras, and other prominent figures such as Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn, and Josep Rull. Carme Forcadell, former president of the Catalan parliament, Jordi Sànchez, former president of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart, president of the civic organisation Òmnium Cultural, have also been informed. 

Fundamental rights violated 

The defendants claim that their fundamental rights have been violated, in particular those set out in Articles 7, 10, and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These concern the principle of legality, freedom of expression, and the right to freedom of assembly. 

They claim that their convictions are disproportionate. And, furthermore, that they only encouraged the people to participate in protests and an independence referendum. 

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Revised convictions 

In February, the Spanish Supreme Court reviewed the sentences of the nine convicts as a result of criminal justice reform. That reform eliminated the crime of rebellion and amended the crime of embezzlement. This review was limited to the disqualification penalties because the prison sentences were granted by the government in 2021. 

In Junqueras’ case, the Supreme Court decided to uphold the 13-year disqualification sentence. This means that he cannot be considered for public office until 2031. For Romeva, Turull and Bassa, the Court deemed it appropriate to uphold the disqualification penalties for disobedience and embezzlement. In doing so, it rejected a reduction in penalties by maintaining the latter offence in its aggravated form. This will keep them disqualified until 2030. 

As for the court, it convicted Sànchez and Cuixart for public disorder and Forcadell, Rull and Forn for disobedience. In their cases, this change of offences led to the complete termination of their respective disqualification penalties. 

Also read: Catalan leaders leave prison after Spanish king pardon 

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