The European Parliament Pegasus Committee calls for effective investigation into the Catalangate scandal

Esquerra Republicana draws attention to the pressure exerted to alter the final drafts and the interference by the Spanish delegations

The European Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for Pegasus and other spyware yesterday approved two reports, one on its conclusions and the other making recommendations on the use of these technological weapons in the European Union. Esquerra values the result of both final drafts that “analyse Catalangate in depth, call on the State to act in order to clarify responsibilities and denounce the defencelessness of the victims.” Esquerra Republicana recalls that these reports are the result of consensus among various European parliamentary groups, and therefore “they differ from the reports that Esquerra might have drafted” alongside more forceful international positions such as those of the rapporteurs of the United Nations which express concern about the Pegasus espionage in Spain.

However, Esquerra is satisfied with the negotiations. In this regard, Esquerra MEP and Inquiry Committee Vice-President Diana Riba emphasizes that “the persuasiveness of Esquerra Republicana and the Greens/EFA has managed to shape the final text.” Ms Riba applauded that a large part of the amendments presented by the Greens/EFA group, of which Esquerra Republicana is a member, have been accepted. “We have managed on the whole to address the espionage targeting the Catalan independence movement.”

Ms Riba also highlighted that they have “rejected amendments by various Spanish delegations” which aimed to “get the Catalangate issue dropped, questioning the credibility of Citizen Lab, and even linking independence with terrorism.” “None of the Socialist, People’s Party, Ciudadanos or VOX amendments to justify the espionage have progressed,” stressed Ms Riba, adding that “Catalangate is clearly illegal in the eyes of Europe.”

Recommendations to the Spanish State

Ms Riba highlighted that in the section on recommendations to the Spanish State, the text calls “clearly and explicitly for a full, fair and effective investigation encompassing all the information on all cases of espionage, including the 47 cases unacknowledged by the Spanish government.” Likewise, this should include “cooperation with the courts” to ensure that the victims “have real and meaningful access” to justice. In this regard, Esquerra points to the petition for the declassification of documents that the Council of Ministers has on the table at the request of the judge in the case of Ms Riba and of Esquerra’s National Council chair, Josep Maria Jové.

The text goes into detail and mentions specific cases such as the espionage of all the Presidents of the Catalan Generalitat government since 2010, that of numerous Catalan political actors, including members of civil-society NGOs Òmnium Cultural and Catalan National Assembly, and lawyers associated with the pro-independence sphere. As for the 18 victims the Spanish State has recognized, the report requires that the victims have access to the corresponding legal warrant.

Regarding the current Spanish legal framework, it states that the provisions for the authorities’ use of espionage techniques “are obsolete” and are not apt for modern technologies such as those spywares Pegasus and Candiru represent. That is why the recommendations suggest that the executive should “initiate the legal reform of the Spanish National Intelligence Centre (CNI)” and even “invite Europol to join the Catalangate investigations in order to contribute with their technical know-how.”

The report also broaches the State’s unwillingness to investigate Catalangate. In this vein, the text notes that the Spanish Congress voted against establishing a committee of inquiry, and regarding the investigation carried out by Spanish Ombudsman Ángel Gabilondo, regrets that this only referred to the 18 Catalangate cases there were ostensibly warrants for, and that none of the victims were seen in order to carry out the investigation. The text goes further and recalls that “it is a judge and not the Ombudsman who has competence over assessing the suitability and proportionality of the use of cyberespionage tools.” In this regard, the report highlights the reluctance of the courts to investigate the cases judicially, since those cases that have been filed by the pro-independence actors “are progressing very slowly.”