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UN Partially Absolves Exiled Catalan Leader From Spanish Prosecution

But Spain's refusal to allow the pro-independence leader to vy for the presidency of Catalonia has been vindicated

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has accused Spanish authorities of removing exiled Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont from his seat as an MP without him having been convicted of a crime and without having “objective reasons foreseen by the law” to support this decision. 

In a resolution that has just come to public knowledge, the committee concludes that Spain violated Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

The UN is urging Spain to adopt the measures necessary to prevent similar violations from being repeated in the future and demands that it reports to the committee within 180 days. 

The UN body has, however, found the Spanish state to be in the right over its refusal to allow the pro-independence leader to be a candidate for the presidency of Catalonia.

The ruling of the Human Rights Committee comes five years after British lawyer, Ben Emmerson, presented a complaint to the United Nations about the fact that Puigdemont had been prevented from being a candidate for the presidency of the Catalan government in January 2018, when he was already in exile after the December 21, 2017, elections. For this reason, he was stripped of his status as an MP.  

As the leader of the Together for Catalonia (Junts) list, which emerged as the largest party in the December 21 pro-independence bloc, Puigdemont was a natural candidate to become leader of the new government, as the most likely to obtain the majority support of the house.  

Puigdemont’s suspension as an MP is what has pushed the United Nations to declare that he was in the right, after all. 

Carles Puigdemont (C) and the Vice President of Catalonia Jordi Puignero i Ferrer (R) are looking at the exhibition during a reception in the Delegation of the government of Catalonia to the EU for the Catalan Day on September 6, 2022, in Brussels, Belgium. Spain’s relationship with Catalonia is again in focus. Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

After accepting the president’s argument to the effect that his suspension as an MP is not provided for in law — given that he did not lead a violent uprising the UN committee has ruled that the Spanish state failed to demonstrate that the suspension of Puigdemont meets with the “predictability requirements” required by the Covenant. 

The committee has thus concluded that the Spanish state “breached the rights” of Puigdemont under Article 25 of the Covenant, since the decision to prosecute him for the crime of rebellionwhich automatically resulted in his suspension as an MP, prior to a conviction — was “not for reasons provided for in the legislation,” and which are reasonable and objective.

Faced with this complaint, further states the UN resolution, the Spanish authorities have the obligation to provide Puigdemont with effective remedy, which requires “comprehensive reparation” to the individuals whose rights have been violated. 

However, in the present case, the committee considers that the recognition of the allegation is already sufficient reparation, but demands from Spain the “obligation” to adopt the measures that are necessary to “prevent similar violations from being committed in the future”.

The report also notes that since Spain is a member of the Optional Protocol to this agreement, the country has undertaken to guarantee to all individuals who are in its territory, the rights recognized there as well as reparation when a violation is proven. 

The committee is also asking Spain to send information within 180 days on the measures it has adopted to apply this opinion.

With regard to the impossibility of Puigdemont taking part in the investiture process, the committee has endorsed Puigdemont’s arguments that there was no barrier established by law that required his physical presence for the investiture. 

And that if he had returned to Spain, he would have been imprisoned since the only way to preserve his rights was “by staying outside the state’s territory”. 

But it also accepts the Spanish state’s argument that this obligation to attend is implicit in the law. The committee concludes that Article 25 cannot be automatically read in favor of Puigdemont’s right to be elected president in absentia, given that he was wanted by justice in a situation of “prosecuted in absentia”, and that there was no violation of Article 25 of the Covenant. 

One member of the committee, José Santos Pais, has criticized the UN resolution condemning the attitude of Spain regarding the suspension of the mandate of Puigdemont’s deputy. 

He has also expressed reservations with the fact that the complaint was accepted for processing, given that it considers that all the legal avenues envisaged had not been exhausted before resorting to the United Nations.

Produced in association with El Nacional En

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