Case 15

Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia in exile

The 130th President of the “Generalitat de Catalunya”, is currently in exile in Belgium after the German justice refused to extradite him to Spain.

The 130th President of the “Generalitat de Catalunya”, is currently in exile in Belgium after the German justice refused to extradite him to Spain.

On his complaint before UN’s Human Rights Committee, Carles Puigdemont reports that Spain has infringed his right to stand for election, his right to go into partnership with other politicians and parties with a shared goal (Catalonia becoming independent from Spain), and his right to freedom of peaceful political expression in support of the independence of Catalonia. The president, who has been dismissed by the Spanish government after declaring independence, was elected again on 21st December for a new term. Spanish authorities impeded his re-election even though he has never been convicted for any crime or deprived of his political rights by a court of law.

 

Description

On 30 October, three days after the declaration of independence in the Catalan Parliament, José Manuel Maza, the chief state prosecutor, lodged a complaint against President Puigdemont and his government before the Central Court in Madrid for alleged charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement of public funds. President Puigdemont left to Brussels with four of his ministers, reason why on 2 and 3 November they didn’t appear before the court in Madrid to testify. From Belgium, he asked the international community to get involved in the Catalan conflict, accusing the Spanish government of conducting an offensive against Catalan institutions and their officers and, at the same time, he justified their absence before Spanish justice saying that they wouldn’t have a fair trial.

The Judge Carmen Lamela issued a European Arrest Warrant against Carles Puigdemont and the four ministers, who went before Belgian justice “not to evade justice’s action but only to defend themselves in a fair and impartial process” as hey said. Brussels first-instance judge provisionally released them before giving a final response to the extradition request. Before the reply, Spanish justice revoked the European Arrest Warrant but not the Spanish one, by which if the persons accused would tread Spanish soil they could be arrested.

President Puigdemont, from Brussels, stood for the elections called by Spanish government on 21 December as the leading candidate of Junts per Catalunya, a new political party. Despite the fact that his group came second in the elections, just behind unionist right-wing party Ciudadanos, pro-independence politicians still held the majority in the Parliament, so he became the candidate for President. However, he couldn’t be physically in the chamber during the investiture, so he was banned from taking the office –as well as Jordi Sànchez, the second on the party list, who was in pretrial detention.

On 23 March 2018, taking advantage of the fact that Carles Puigdemont was in Finland, the examining magistrate Pablo Llarena issued a new Arrest Warrant for rebellion and funds’ embezzlement.  Two days later while, President Puigdemont was coming back to Brussels, he was arrested in Germany. On 5 April, the Schleswig-Holstein’s court refused to extradite him for rebellion and he was set free on 6 April with precautionary measures. Judge Llarena decided to reduce President Puigdemont’s charge (from rebellion to sedition) but the court also refused this offense and chose to preserve the possibility to extradite him only on the basis of misappropriation of public funds. That’s the reason why judge Pablo Llarena dropped again the European Arrest Warrant and President Carles Puigdemont came back to Brussels. However, judge Llarena suspended him and the other defendants from their duties.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Before

In his role of Catalonia’s President, Carles Puigdemont was the main promoter of Catalonia’s independence referendum on 1 October 2017 as pro-independence parties, who held the majority in the Parliament, had promised in their electoral rolls. The referendum was held in the middle of great police violence and 90% of votes were “yes”. That same day, Puigdemont said he would take the results to the Parliament. Ten days later, Puigdemont declared independence, but immediately after he withheld the effects of such a declaration, waiting for an international mediation which never arrived.

On 21 October, the Spanish government announced the implementation of the Spanish Constitution section 155 which involved direct rule of Madrid on Catalonia; this was passed on 27 October by the Spanish Senate and the result was the de facto impeachment of Puigdemont and his ministers (even though they never bent to that decision). That same day, the Catalan Parliament declared the independence of Catalonia.

The outcome

Knowing for a fact that should he decide to come back to Spain he would surely be arrested and that he would have what he deemed an unfair trial, Catalonia’s President decided to stay back in Brussels. From there, he leads an international campaign to denounce Spain’s lack of democracy and to reclaim Catalan governmental institutions. He also pushes policies aiming at the materialization of the Catalan Republic and defends civil and politic rights from “El Consell de la República” (Republic’s Council).

Violated laws

Two of the fundamental rights that have been violated to President Carles Puigdemont as well as to the members of his government and of the Parliament of Catalonia are, on the one hand, the right to political participation, since the government he presided over was dismissed and Parliament dissolved based on the application by the Spanish Senate on October 27, 2017 of (direct rule over Catalonia’s) Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. This precept does not provide for any of the two above mentioned measures undertaken. Moreover, the right to presumption of innocence was also violated since although President Puigdemont made himself available to the judicial authorities of Belgium, as soon as he reached that country, yet Spanish justice still considers him as a “fugitive of justice” and takes for granted his condition of guilty based on the orders it has dictated, whereas President Puigdemont has not yet been judged.

 

Furthermore, Spain also violates the right to the personal freedom and integrity of the President, since in spite of always having presented himself before the judicial authorities of the countries he has travelled to and in spite of the arrest warrants dictated by the Supreme Court having been withdrawn, the Spanish authorities have not ceased using personal and technological tracking means to have him located, by which reason there are different judicial investigations open in various countries.

 

With regard to the judicial process initiated against members of his government, MPs of the Parliament of Catalonia, and social leaders of civil society’s independentist associations for the alleged crimes of rebellion, sedition, embezzlement of public funds and disobedience (which will be soon brought to the courts), it has violated, in the first place, President Puigdemont’s right to effective legal protection; since he has not been allowed to defend himself from such serious charges before the Supreme Court as long as he would not hand himself over to the Spanish judicial authorities, in contravention of current legislation. The principle of criminal legality (which means that the acts of those who are accused must involve a specific crime in order to be able to initiate a judicial process) has been violated as well in his case.


In this regard, it should be remembered that in the case of President Puigdemont’s detention in Germany, the Superior Court of Justice of Schleswig-Holstein ruled on July 12, 2018, that the alleged rebellion crime that was alleged against MHP Puigdemont does not exist in the present case and that it is up to the Spanish judicial authorities to investigate the alleged offence of public funds’ embezzlement. This German court’s ruling prompted the immediate withdrawal by the Spanish Supreme Court of the international arrest warrant that had been transferred to the German authorities as well as the others that had been sent to Belgium and Scotland for the extradition of other members of the Catalan government. Nevertheless, the Catalan Government members continue to be accused of these crimes by Spain, in spite of not being prosecuted because of these.

 

Although at this time there is no international arrest warrant activated, the Spanish judicial authorities have once more violated President Puigdemont’s rights to political participation, since although in the elections of December 21, 2017 convened by the Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, he was elected as MP and was proposed to be restored to his lawful position of “Molt Honorable President of the Generalitat de Catalunya”, the Spanish Constitutional Court prevented President Puigdemont from taking office. For his part, the Supreme Court has suspended him as deputy considering him to be accountable for an alleged crime of rebellion, thus altering with this decision the parliamentary majorities chosen by Catalan voters and consequently violating their political rights as voters as well.

References

Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó. L’Enciclopèdia.cat (in Catalan):

https://www.enciclopedia.cat/EC-GEC-0520804.xml 

Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó. Wikipèdia (in Catalan):

https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carles_Puigdemont_i_Casamaj%C3%B3

Carles Puigdemont, from mayor of Girona to President of Catalonia La Vanguardia, 9 January 2016 (in Spanish):

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20160109/301290104228/carles-puigdemont-president-generalitat.html

President Puigdemont: “I am committed to working to explain and to implement, to prepare and to guarantee, to stabilize and to calm” Generalitat de Catalunya, 12 January 2016 (in Catalan):

http://www.president.cat/pres_gov/AppJava/president/actualitat/noticies/290123/president-puigdemont-comprometo-treballar-explicar-implicar-preparar-garantir-estabilitzar-asserenar.html?mode=static

Parliament invests Carles Puigdemont as President of the Generalitat. Palau del Parlament, Sunday 10 January 2016. (in Catalan):

https://www.parlament.cat/web/actualitat/noticies/index.html?p_id=269759854

Puigdemont announces he will call an independence referendum in September 2017.

Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals, 28 September 2016 (in Catalan):

http://www.ccma.cat/324/puigdemont-anuncia-que-convocara-el-referendum-sobre-la-independencia-al-setembre-del-2017/noticia/2751011/

President Puigdemont: “Referendum is to express legitimate opinions, not to draw distinctions”

Press Room – Generalitat de Catalunya, 29 September 2016 (in Catalan):

http://premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/AppJava/notapremsavw/295712/ca/president-puigdemont-referendum-expressar-opinions-legitimes-fer-diferencies.do

Parliament approves calling a referendum with or without Spain’s consent. Catalan News, 7 d’octubre de 2016 (in English):

http://www.catalannews.com/politics/item/parliament-approves-calling-a-referendum-with-or-without-spain-s-consent

Puigdemont’s speech in Madrid about the referendum, live. El País, 22 May 2017 (in Catalan):

https://cat.elpais.com/cat/2017/05/22/actualidad/1495463097_712587.html

President Puigdemont announces that Catalonia will hold the independence referendum on 1 October. Press Room – Generalitat de Catalunya, 9 June 2017 (in Catalan):

http://premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/AppJava/notapremsavw/301417/ca/president-puigdemont-anuncia-catalunya-celebrara-referendum-independencia-proper-1-doctubre.do  

Puigdemont pauses the UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) to open a last door to dialogue. Ara newspaper, 10 October 2017 (in Catalan):

https://www.ara.cat/politica/compareixenca-Puigdemont-Parlament-referendum-1-O-DUI-independencia_0_1885011673.html

Puigdemont suspends the effects of the independence with the aim of contributing to the dialogue. La Vanguardia, 10 October 2017 (in Spanish):

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20171010/431964991716/puigdemont-declaracion-parlament.html

Rajoy dismisses the whole Catalan Government and takes the Catalan Parliament’s direct rule. El Periódico, 21 October 2010. (in Spanish):

https://www.elperiodico.com/es/politica/20171021/gobierno-aprueba-medidas-articulo-155-constitucion-catalunya-puigdemont-6369109

Rajoy announces Puigdemont and his Government’s cessation and calls for autonomic elections in Catalonia on 21 December. La Moncloa, 27 October 2017 (in Spanish):

 http://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/presidente/actividades/Paginas/2017/271017-rajoycm.aspx

Provision 12327 released in the Official Gazette of the Spanish State (BOE) whereby Senate passes the application of section 155 in Catalonia (in Spanish):

https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2017/10/27/pdfs/BOE-A-2017-12327.pdf

Government publishes the declaration and maintains that Puigdemont is the President

El Nacional.cat, Saturday, 28 October 2017 (in Catalan):

https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/govern-declaracio-mante-president_206955_102.html

Puigdemont and some members of his government seek refuge in Belgium to avoid Spanish justice. Eldiario.es, 30 October 2017 (in Spanish):

https://www.eldiario.es/politica/Puigdemont-Belgica-justicia-euroorden-detencion_0_702730131.html

Carles Puigdemont meets some members of his Government in Brussels. El Punt Avui, 30 October 2018 (in Catalan):

http://www.elpuntavui.cat/politica/article/17-politica/1271707-carles-puigdemont-es-troba-a-brussel-les.html

Former Catalan president and five of his counselors went from Marseilles to Brussels. Agencia EFE, 30 October 2010 (in Spanish):

https://www.efe.com/efe/america/mundo/el-expresidente-catalan-y-cinco-de-sus-consejeros-viajaron-a-bruselas-desde-marsella/20000012-3423228

Spanish National Criminal Court subpoenas Puigdemont and the whole Government on Friday. Vilaweb, 31 October 2017 (in Spanish):

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/laudiencia-espanyola-cita-puigdemont-i-tot-el-govern-dijous-i-divendres/

How Puigdemont fled in a boot. ABC, 7 December 2017 (in Spanish):

https://www.abc.es/espana/abci-coches-contra-dignidad-201712070238_noticia.html

The Belgian Judge: “Pre-trial detention would have cave caused irreparable harm·. Diari Ara, 14 November 2017 (in Catalan):

https://www.ara.cat/politica/jutge-preventiva-hauria-causat-irreparables_0_1906609373.html

Belgium withdraws precautionary measures for Puigdemont and the councilors. This morning Spanish Supreme Court has withdrawn the extradition request for Puigdemont and the councilors avoiding that Belgian justice limits the charges. Vilaweb, 5 December 2017 (in Catalan):

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/el-suprem-retira-la-peticio-dextradicio-de-puigdemont-i-els-consellers-perque-la-justicia-belga-no-li-limiti-les-acusacions/

Spanish Supreme Court withdraws European Arrest Warrants against Puigdemont and the four councilors in Belgium. Diari Ara, 5 December 2017 (in Catalan):

https://www.ara.cat/politica/Llarena-euroordres-Puigdemont-consellers-Brusselles_0_1918608223.html

Results of 2017 Catalan Parliament elections. Diari Ara. (in Catalan):

https://eleccions.ara.cat/parlament-21d

Catalonia’s parliamentary election 2017. Wikipèdia. (in Catalan):

https://ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleccions_al_Parlament_de_Catalunya_de_2017

Spanish spies ‘tracked Carles Puigdemont via friend’s phone. The Guardian 27 March 2018 (in English):

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/spanish-spies-tracked-carles-puigdemont-via-friends-phone

Germany arrests Puigdemont when he was entering from Denmark. 324.cat, 25 March 2018 (in Catalan):

http://www.ccma.cat/324/la-policia-alemanya-ha-retingut-puigdemont-quan-entrava-al-pais-des-dedinamarca-segons-el-seu-advocat/noticia/2846615/

German justice sets Puigdemont free and dismisses rebellion offence. La Vanguardia, 6 April 2018 (in Spanish):

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20180405/442207871883/puigdemont-libre-descarta-rebelion.html

Llarena steals all the seats from Puigdemont and five representatives accused for the 1 October. El Diario Vasco, 11 July 2018 (in Spanish):

https://www.diariovasco.com/politica/llarena-suspende-puigdemont-20180710142456-ntrc.html

Spanish judge Llarena favours to refuse Puigdemont’s extratition, Diari Ara, 12 July 2018 (in Catalan):

https://www.ara.cat/politica/Llarena-inclina-renunciar-extradicio-Puigdemont_0_2049995173.html

Consell de la República and Assemblea de Representants: that’s how the Government in exile will work. Diari Ara, 28 February 2018 (in Catalan):

https://www.ara.cat/politica/Consell-Republica-representants-funcionara-Govern_0_1969603179.html

“Puigdemont vs. Spain”, the claim before ONU’s Human Rights Committee. El Nacional. Cat, 2 March 2018 (in Catalan):

https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/document-demanda-puigdemont-comite-drets-humans-onu_244266_102.html

Spanish spies ‘tracked Carles Puigdemont via friend’s phone. The Guardian 27 March 2018 (in English):

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/27/spanish-spies-tracked-carles-puigdemont-via-friends-phone

Documents

Judge Llarena’s order of withdrawal (18-07-2018) of the previous international arrest warrant issued against Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan MP’s after German courts did not agree to the charges of rebellion issued by Spain (in Spanish):

 http://www.rtve.es/contenidos/documentos/auto_rechazo_entrega_Puigdemont.pdf

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