Ex-UN body chair hopes Human Rights court will rule against Spain in Catalan leaders' case

"It is very difficult to go against Venezuela, Iran, China, or Russia when Spain behaves like this," says Mads Andenas

From left to right: Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez, and Oriol Junqueras (by Generalitat)
From left to right: Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez, and Oriol Junqueras (by Generalitat) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 14, 2021 10:32 AM

The former chair of a United Nations body expects the European Court of Human Rights to rule against Spain in a string of legal appeals presented by Catalonia’s jailed pro-independence politicians and activists.

"You don’t imprison separatist politicians," said Mads Andenas, who was a member of the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions from 2009 to 2015, serving as chair and Special Rapporteur from 2013.

He stated that sedition convictions for attempting to hold a unilateral referendum and separate from Spain in 2017 represent "an abuse of the judicial system," and said they are "clearly inappropriate in a European political system."

In an interview with the Catalan News Agency, Andenas criticized Spain for ignoring repeated calls coming from the United Nations body demanding the release of the pro-independence leaders, including former government ministers and the speaker of the Catalan parliament.

"The Spanish state is part of a group of countries which do not accept individual rulings by the UNWG, and those are countries which the Spanish state does not want to be associated with," he said, anticipating that the Human Rights court will ultimately take the UN’s report into account.

The consequences of Spain’s stance are far-reaching, Andenas argued, and undermines the international system of human rights’ supervision. "It is very difficult to criticize Venezuela, Iran, China, or Russia when the Spanish government behaves this way," he said.

With activist Jordi Cuixart and former minister Jordi Turull becoming the first two leaders to challenge their imprisonment in the Human Rights Court last week, Andenas is confident that the Strasbourg-based tribunal will eventually "censure" Spain.

The ruling could also become a "turning point" in how the European Union deals with the Catalan conflict, which EU leaders have long dismissed as being only part of Spain's "internal matters," Andenas said.

Mads Andenas holds a Chair in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo and has held several senior academic roles in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has the mandate to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or inconsistently with the international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the international legal instruments accepted by the States concerned.