The members of Esquerra have lodged appeals for protection of their human rights before the ECHR in line with a strategy denouncing political persecution of the independence movement
Former members of the Catalan government, VP Oriol Junqueras, Foreign Minister Raül Romeva and Labour Minister Dolors Bassa are taking European legal action. As former speaker of the Catalan Parliament Carme Forcadell did on March 30, these members of Esquerra have lodged their appeal before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after exhausting the Spanish jurisdiction in the Constitutional Court.
In the appeals, lawyers Andreu Van den Eynde and Clara Serra Baiget have set out the grievances suffered by the appellants in the case before the jurisdiction of the Spanish state. Mr Van den Eynde, who was defending counsel for Mr Junqueras and Mr Romeva during the proceedings against the independence leaders, is very familiar with those grievances, as is Mariano Bergés who joined the defence team during the trial for Ms Bassa.
The appellants are not only calling on this complaint as an individual instrument for the case, but also frame it as an overall international strategy to denounce the political persecution of the independence movement by Spain. It is, therefore, a collective defence of the movement against a cause that is fundamentally political in nature. Litigation, on the one hand, and on the other, the international work carried out by the organization and led from her exile in Geneva by the Secretary General of Esquerra Republicana, Marta Rovira, form a defence strategy for all citizens, aiming to denounce the conduct by the Spanish State against the rule of law. It is not, therefore, a question of denouncing lone acts, but of a common cause with the aim of changing a system that attacks the political ideology of the Catalan independence movement.
In this regard, Mr Van den Eynde explained that the defence is based on the fact that “we are facing a political cause, adding that” “everything we are explicitly denouncing is a symptom of the underlying infirmity, which is that the goal of repression is to silence the independence movement.” Precisely because the persecution is directed against an entire movement, the defence has an element of community: “Our cause goes beyond these individual people,” said Mr Van den Eynde, “which allows us to expound a discourse for the benefit of the people and of all those victims of the State’s retaliation.” Finally, the lawyer highlighted the “international work” that is also condensed into the lawsuits.
Lawyer Clara Serra for her part detailed the series of human rights questioned by the Supreme Court sentence, breaches that are the basis for the complaint lodged before the European Court of Human Rights. “The sentence violates the principle of legality, it questions the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and protest, the right to a fair trial and review of criminal conviction, the right to the presumption of innocence, and the right to free elections,” he said. According to the lawyer, the sentence “shows that Spain’s judicial authorities have limited our rights with a purpose specifically aimed at silencing a political movement.”
Victims of a political cause
“The cause was intended to prevent us from acting in defence of political ideas and was built with the aim of violating the political rights of our voters,” said the president of Esquerra Republicana, Oriol Junqueras, who placed it in the context of a “general cause against republicanism.” Mr Junqueras added that “this is also being constructed against those in exile and those who hold elected office in Parliament or Government, such as Tània Verge and Roger Torrent, among others.” In short, he concluded, “this cause is built on the fact that we defend republican ideals and the independence of Catalonia.”
“We are going to Europe to denounce that Spain’s criminal justice proceedings were undertaken to silence us, in a strategy of political silencing,” said former minister Dolors Bassa, who cited her own conviction as an example of the fact, where the sentence stated that she opened the polling stations on the 1st October as the Minister of Education, when she was in fact the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Families. “The whole sentence is nonsense, so we were absolutely determined to go to Europe,” she said.
In the same vein, former minister Raül Romeva stated that “we are facing a political cause” that “goes beyond” their particular cases. “What has been done is to judge ideas and opinions. The violation of the fundamental principle of freedom of expression has been used as a deterrent to any movement and way of thinking,” he said. Mr Romeva is convinced that “justice with an international perspective will be fair, which has not been the case in Spain.”
International strategic litigation
As noted, the global defence strategy is an important part of the international work led by Esquerra Republicana’s Secretary-General Marta Rovira since she went into exile in Geneva.
“We have been working for three years on the international condemnation of the repression,” said Ms Rovira. She defined this part of the work as “political support work,” as it employs “special extrajudicial procedures that exist at the international level to protect human rights.”
In this regard, the Secretary-General noted the work that Esquerra has done in positions as relevant as the Opinion of the UN Arbitrary Detention Working Group (IWG); the adoption of Resolution 2381 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), also known as the Cilevics report; or of judicial victories in European instances, such as the judgment of 19 December 2019 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) establishing the so-called Junqueras doctrine.
“We will go into depth on all this work in an event to be held at the Parliament of the Council of Europe,” said Ms Rovira. This international event will take place on 11 October and will be attended by victims of repression alongside international legal experts and journalists.