Amnesty International have once again called for the immediate release of the Catalan civil society leaders Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart from provisional detention. In a press release on their Spanish website entitled “Concluido el juicio oral, Jordi Cuixart y Jordi Sánchez deben ser puestos en libertad provisional“, they say they have written to the Spanish Prosecutor to demand the release of the Jordis, and express concern about the nature of the criminal offences of which they have been accused. This is a translation of the full press release.
At the end of the oral trial, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez should be released on bail
18 June 2019
Since we were informed of their imprisonment, Amnesty International has repeatedly stated that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart should be released immediately. Now, the conclusion of oral trial before the Supreme Court is the time to review their situation of provisional detention and proceed to release them. Both have been in provisional detention since 16 October 2017. The Spanish courts have denied their release on numerous occasions. The organisation has sent a letter to the Public Prosecutor, insisting on this once again, and regrets that yesterday they were informed negatively against the release of Jordi Sànchez.
In its writs of 11 April and 14 May 2019, the Supreme Court referred to the development of the oral trial as “an element of indispensable deliberation” which advised ruling out Jordi Sànchez’s freedom, and recognised that any preventative measure involving the deprivation of liberty “is aimed, precisely, to ensure the defendant’s presence during the oral trial”.
With respect to Jordi Cuixart, the ruling of the Constitutional Court on 7 May 2019, which dismissed his appeal against the resolutions which denied his petition for provisional release, indicated that the said resolutions took into account the temporary proximity of the oral trial, in line with constitutional jurisprudence, which recognises as a legitimate aim of provisional detention ensuring the presence of the accused in the trial.
Amnesty International warns that, according to international standards of human rights, the longer provisional detention is prolonged, the greater the need for a rigorous examination to determine if it remains necessary and proportionate.
The organisation has repeatedly pointed our that if protesters were called on 20 and 21 September 2017 with the aim of preventing a lawful police operation, this could be subject to criminal charges. However, the response by the authorities cannot entail an excessive and disproportionate restriction of human rights such as the right to expression and peaceful assembly. Amnesty International has already expressed concern about the nature of the criminal offences – rebellion or sedition – of those accused. For this reason Amnesty International demands that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart are released on bail.
Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, as private citizens and presidents of civil society organisations at the time of the events which are being tried, had the right to organise and promote peaceful meetings in support of the referendum and of the independence of Catalonia. Although international human rights law allows States to impose some restrictions on the right to freedom of expression for certain legitimate purposes, such as to protect public order or national security, the authorities must show that these restrictions are necessary and proportional to the pursued objective, something which has not happened in this case.
Furthermore, according to international law, restrictions of freedom of expression “to execute its protective function […] must be the least intrusive instrument of those which achieve the desired objective”. This requirement of proportionality implies that criminal sanctions, in particular those which lead to deprivation of liberty, may constitute a disproportionate restriction on the right to peaceful assembly and expression. For this reason, the presentation of serious criminal charges against members of civil society which organise and promote this type of assembly is an excessive and disproportionate measure.
The case of former senior officials and the monitoring of the trial
Amnesty International demands that, in accordance with international standards, the provisional detention of the former senior Catalan officials is also submitted to judicial review. This request does not imply, in any case, an assessment of their criminal responsibility.
The organisation has observed all of the trial sessions held in the Supreme Court in Madrid. This observation work is regular in the organisation’s work, and usually develops in different countries and situations.
Until the judgement is issued, Amnesty International will not make public its assessment of the trial.