Spain acts desperately by criticising UN report on Catalan political prisoners

Lawyer Ben Emmerson also calls Spain's acting president to 'stop Stalinist show trial'

The lawyer for the Catalan political prisoners taking their case to the United Nations, Ben Emmerson, has refuted the Spanish government’s accusations of “conflict of interest” between him and two members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). Reacting to the body’s request for the “immediate” release of politicians Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, Madrid has demanded that the members be disqualified for allegedly being close to Emmerson.

“I have never met (or spoken) to any of the current members of WGAD. Two of them were formerly UN Special Rapporteurs at the same time as I was. Our staff members collaborated on joint letters, but I never dealt directly with either of them,” Emmerson said. “Ad hominem attacks like this are the last refuge of a desperate government” he added. “It will all become clear when these bogus complaints are investigated by the UN.”

Emmerson also called on Spain’s acting president, Pedro Sánchez, to “stop this Stalinist show trial now”, referring to the proceedings against the jailed leaders, who are prosecuted for rebellion.

Least intelligent response

The Catalan foreign minister, Alfred Bosch, also complained about Spain’s response, saying that it is “the least intelligent” they could have taken. For Bosch, Madrid’s reputation “will be seriously damaged” if it ignores the report. He also called on the King of Spain to take action and say: “Let’s fix it, let’s be a democratic country, let’s amend these failures.”

The report states that the imprisonment of three pro-independence politicians runs contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to equal access to public services in their country.

The working group also concluded that calls for self-determination are being suppressed by detaining them, and that trial is not fair nor the judges impartial. The defendants’ presumption of innocence is also questioned, due to “political interference” observed. As a result, the authors of the report argued for the “immediate” release of Junqueras, Sànchez and Cuixart and that they be paid compensation