The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has unanimously rejected a case brought by 76 Catalan separatist politicians alleging violations of their freedom of expression and assembly in connection with the 2017 secession attempt.
The Strasbourg-based tribunal said that the Spanish Constitutional Court’s suspension of a plenary session of the Catalan parliament scheduled for October 9, 2017 “pursued legitimate goals” such as “maintaining public safety, defending public order and protecting the rights and freedoms of others.”
Former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont had been planning to declare unilateral independence at that session after holding an illegal referendum on October 1. He fled Spain soon afterwards to avoid being arrested and prosecuted for rebellion like other secessionist leaders who are currently on trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid.
The human rights violation case, which was considered “inadmissible” by the ECHR, was brought, among others, by former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and by Puigdemont himself.
Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borell has underscored the relevance of this judicial decision. “It refutes all the arguments put forward by the Catalan independence movement about curtailing their freedom of expression and the working of the Catalan parliament,” he said.
In a detailed decision, the ECHR rejected each one of the claims made by the plaintiffs, all members of the separatist parties Junts pel Sí (Together for Catalonia) and the anti-capitalist party CUP. The legal action had been brought before the court on October 11, 2017 by Andreu Van den Eynde, the lawyer currently representing ex-deputy premier Oriol Junqueras at the Supreme Court trial.
The seven-judge panel said that the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decision was made to uphold the law and could be reasonably considered “necessary in a democratic society.” The plans for a session to declare independence were based on a regional law tailor-made to facilitate secession, and which had been suspended by the Constitutional Court on September 7, “rendering this law temporarily inapplicable.” Thus, “the decision by the governing body of the autonomous parliament to authorize a plenary session represented a manifest lack of respect for the decisions of the Constitutional Court aimed at protecting the constitutional order.”
The plenary session was suspended on October 5 after 16 deputies for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) made this request, arguing a situation of “exceptional urgency” that could affect “the application and general efficiency of the Constitution” and have “overall political consequences.”
Separatist lawmakers then turned to the ECHR, alleging violations of their freedom of expression and association.
English version by Susana Urra.