Esquerra applauds the Council of Europe urging Spain to release the Catalan political prisoners and to withdraw extradition orders against the exiles

The organization calls for the reform of the crimes of rebellion and sedition and calls for dialogue with the political forces of Catalonia

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has approved a key report concerning political prisoners. The document entitled Should politicians be prosecuted for statements made in the exercise of their mandate? deals with the situation in Spain and Turkey regarding freedom of expression and assembly of politicians holding public office.

In approving this report, the Council of Europe:

  • Admits imprisoned pro-independence leaders are political prisoners.
  • Calls on Spain to reform the Penal Code, particularly regarding the crimes of rebellion and sedition.
  • Recognizes that on 1st October 2017, there was no violence exercised by the public.
  • Proposes dialogue as the path to democratic resolution.

Esquerra Republicana applauds the approval of the text by three quarters of the Assembly members, despite the twenty amendments presented predominantly by the Spanish PP and PSOE political parties.

In the report’s conclusions, the Council of Europe calls Spain to:

  1. Reform the crimes of rebellion and sedition, so that no interpretation may in practice overturn the decriminalization of the organization of illegal referendums or that may lead to disproportionate sanctions for peaceful transgressions.
  2. Release political prisoners and detainees from custody though pardons or other formulas – such as amnesty – and drop extradition proceedings.
  3. Revoke the proceedings against civil servants in relation to the events of 2017.
  4. Refrain from demanding that politicians relinquish their political convictions in exchange for pardons or more favourable prison conditions.
  5. Ensure that the crime of misappropriation is applied only when both guilt and losses to the state coffers can be proven.
  6. Enter into a constructive dialogue with all political forces in Catalonia, so that Spain may resolve its political differences without having to resort to criminal prosecution.

Senator Laura Castel of Esquerra Republicana, the only pro-independence representative at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, says that this report is a “paradigm shift”: “We can say that they are political prisoners. The Council of Europe says so,” she said. According to Ms Castel, this report is highly relevant for “the huge impact it can have on European legal proceedings. This document will have very significant consequences.” In this regard, the senator highlighted the “apprehension” among the members of the PP and the PSOE who were on the Committee. “The PP's amendments went so far as lying,” said Ms Castel, who said that the rapporteur himself had maintained a ‘firm’ attitude against them. “At Esquerra Republicana we are happy with the result of the report,” concluded Ms Castel.

We can say that they are political prisoners. The Council of Europe says so
Laura Castel Senator of Esquerra Republicana and Member of the COE

Concern in Madrid over the report’s findings

Both PP and PSOE members had submitted amendments to the report before it was voted on by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. All in all, 20 were tendered, of which only one was approved. The text proposed by the Rapporteur has remained almost intact in its entirety, as none of the three amendments approved in total has led to a substantial change in the significance of the text, which is why both Spanish parties have already announced that they will present a separate vote against the report’s findings.

A total of six members voted against the text, while the final report received 21 votes in favour. The Assembly will debate the text on 21st June.

The Council of Europe’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination is soon to issue a report on possible discrimination against political prisoners on the grounds of political opinion.