Spain must free former Catalan VP Oriol Junqueras and activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, who have been in preventive prison for more than 18 months now, and find a way to compensate them. This is the warning made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In a report published this Wednesday, the body states that “given the circumstances of the case, the correct solution would be to free Cuixart, Sànchez and Junqueras immediately and offer them the right to obtain compensation and other forms of reparation in accordance with international law.”
Sànchez, Cuixart and Junqueras were the first of the jailed leaders to take their cases to the UN in February last year. Other political prisoners on trial over the 2017 independence referendum, former Catalan ministers under Puigdemont’s Government Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa, submitted their cases to the group last July.
“If Spain ignores the resolution it will face international backlash”
“This decision should mark a turning point in Spanish policy towards Catalonia”, said Human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson, who has been pursuing their cases. In a press conference at London’s Law Society, Emmersin explained the report’s details.
“If Spain does not immediately release all the political prisoners, and sit down at the negotiating table it will face a rising tide of international condemnation”, he said and called for the Spanish Government to “shake off the authoritarian instincts and move very rapidly into the 21st century”. “Modern democracies do not lock up democratically elected politicians simply because they argue for independence. That is the hallmark of repressive regimes, and has no place in the European democratic order”, he added.
Spain consider the UN experts to be “intoxicated”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions investigates arbitrary detentions which are alleged to be in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has no direct powers to enforce its decisions and relies on states to enact its decisions. It previously found in 2016 that the conditions under which Julian Assange, the Wikileaks co-founder, sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London amounted to “arbitrary detention”.
However, the Spanish Government questioned the repot. A spokesman for the Spanish foreign ministry said it had been written “without rigour” and that the authors had allowed themselves “to be intoxicated and misinformed by the most radical separatists, weakening their mandate”.
Carlos Bastarreche, the Spanish Ambassador to London, as “a clear interference in the Spanish courts of justice with the clear objective of continuing to attack the judicial system in Spain.”