Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and Oriol Junqueras have today lodged their case with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), claiming that their imprisonment by the Spanish Government is unlawful.
Despite several parliamentarians and Spanish law professors have confirmed that there is no legal basis for charging them with sedition and rebellion crimes all of their applications for their release from jail have been refused by the Spanish judicial system, they have been left with no option but to take their case to the UN.
Leading human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson QC, who represents the detained men, says: “This case does not ask the UN to adjudicate on the issue of Catalan independence, but seeks the UN’s reaffirmation that governments cannot repress political dissent through arbitrary detention. The actions of the Spanish government in this case set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest around the world”. His colleague Human Rights Lawyer, Ms Rachel Lindon, has reminded that the organization of a referendum in Spain it is no longer a crime since 2005.
Lawyers have presented this application claiming that Spain’s detention of the applicants:
- Violates their right to freedom of association and freedom of expression
- Violates their right to political opinion and participation in public life
- Is in violation of fair trial rights, including the right to be tried by an independent impartial, and competent tribunal, the right to prepare a defence, and the right to the presumption of innocence
- Discriminates against them because of their advocacy for the rights of the Catalan people to self-determination.
The international defence is optimistic about receiving a positive response by the WGAD within a few weeks or months.
Who is Ben Emmerson?
A founder member of the Matrix Chambers set, Ben Emmerson is one of the world’s leading figures in international humanitarian law and human rights.
He has more than 25 years of experience of litigating before international courts, including the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He was the United Nations special rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights.
What is the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD)?
It is a mechanism created by the United Nations Human Rights Council on which experts in the field investigate arrests that might be an affront to the principles established by such international treaties as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since its creation in 1991, it has issued more than 600 verdicts.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention already made an announcement after the October 1 referendum in which it called on the Spanish Government to fully respect fundamental rights, including the freedom to meet and associate, and urged political dialogue. The Working Group has also made statements on other occasions about the persistent use by Saudi Arabia of anti-terrorist laws to persecute peaceful activists; it has ordered Iran to repeal the death penalty for espionage against the academic Ahmadreza Djalal; it has condemned the imprisonment of Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong; and it has urged the Chilean Government not to apply the anti-terrorist law against native populations.