The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has already begun to examine the appeals of the nine independence leaders sentenced by the Supreme Court to sentences of between 9 and 13 years in prison, and has summoned Spain to answer six questions before January 12, 2024. Among other issues, the ECHR, based in Strasbourg, wants to know if the ruling of the Spanish high court makes an "unforeseeable or expansive interpretation of the crime of sedition and / or embezzlement contrary to Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights", as denounced by the appellants. This provision provides that "no one shall be punished for an act or omission which, at the time it was committed, did not constitute an offence under national or international law".
The review by the ECHR of the sentence of the procés is the moment that the independence leaders are waiting for since they were convicted by the Supreme Court in 2019. Oriol Junqueras and the other eight sentenced to prison terms by the Criminal Chamber never recognized the legitimacy of the high court to judge them and, from the beginning, they had the focus on the Strasbourg body, hoping that it would somehow censor the instruction of the Supreme Court and the conclusions reached by the court in the sentence.
Before arriving in Strasbourg, the plaintiffs went through the Constitutional Court, which endorsed the Supreme Court's judgment in ten judgments. These judgments had the dissenting vote of two or, in some cases, three magistrates of the progressive sector (at that time in the minority in the court), who opined that there had been a lack of proportionality in the sentences imposed, although they did not question the "criminal relevance of the conduct of the plaintiffs".
Although what has now occurred in Strasbourg is only a first step, a kind of initial filter before the European court even decides whether to admit the case or not, it is an important milestone: that same court had previously stopped other demands from the Catalan independence environment in recent years. declared inadmissible from the outset. Of course, sources familiar with the processes and times of the ECHR point out that, although when the court decides to take this first step and launch its questions to the Government it is usually indicative that it could end up admitting the case, sometimes it decides not to admit it for processing and declares it inadmissible without ruling on the merits.
Investiture pacts, live
In the letter to the lawyers, the ECHR, which will still take time to rule, has informed the convicts that on Tuesday "a preliminary examination" was held on the admission of their cases, that first filter of admissibility. "The judge to whom the assigned cases had been referred decided, pursuant to Article 54 § 2 (b) of the Rules of Procedure of the ECtHR, that the notification of part of the requests should be delivered to the Government of Spain and that the Government should be invited to submit written observations on the admissibility and merits of the complaints contained in the summary of complaints and questions to the parties," informs the European body in the letter sent to the defense of the former Minister of the Generalitat Jordi Turull, to which El PAÍS has had access.
Along with Turull, the former vice president of the GeneralitatOriol Junqueras also went to the European court; former directors Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa, Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull; the former president of the Parliament Carme Forcadell; and the former presidents of the ANC, Jordi Sànchez, and of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart. The issues that the ECHR wants Spain – through the State Bar – to clarify vary depending on the appeal presented by each of the convicts, since the questions posed to the Executive derive directly from the alleged violations of rights denounced by the independence leaders. However, the claims of all had similar foundations.
All the plaintiffs complained under Article 7 of the Convention of a "broad and unforeseeable interpretation by the Supreme Court of the crime of sedition and/or embezzlement", hence the European body asked Spain if this occurred. They also considered that articles 10 and/or 11 of the Convention (on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association) had been violated because they were convicted of sedition when, they claimed, they had simply encouraged citizens to participate in demonstrations in defense of the independence process and participate in a referendum on the independence of Catalonia. "They considered that the criminal convictions had a chilling effect on the exercise of the aforementioned fundamental principles," says the ECtHR, which asks Spain: "Have the applicants been convicted for a legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of association and expression, in violation of Article 10 and/or Article 11 of the Convention?"
The court also questions whether the imprisonment after the convictions of the Supreme Court violated Article 5 of the European Convention (on the right to liberty and security), as maintained by the convicts, and if Article 6 (right to a fair trial) has been respected, since the independence leaders claim that they did not have access to the file of the criminal process while they were in prison. In addition, the Strasbourg-based court also asks whether there was a violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the convention denounced by the independence leaders, on the grounds that their conviction "disproportionately" inferred their political rights; and whether there was a violation of article 18 on the limitation of the application of restrictions of rights.
Finally, and as established by the rules of the ECtHR, the court reports that it has also asked the Government to indicate, with a deadline of January 12, whether it is willing to reach an "amicable agreement" with which to end the case, a possibility that avoids workloads to the court, but that is rarely used.
Once the ECtHR receives all the requested answers, it could still be months, or even years, before the Strasbourg judges make a decision.
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