Forbidding Junqueras right to vote distortion of Parliament

“An MP must be able to cast his vote,” says defence lawyer

Oriol Junqueras arriving at the Spanish National Court on November 2 (by ACN)
Oriol Junqueras arriving at the Spanish National Court on November 2 (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 18, 2018 05:05 PM

The ongoing legal battle to allow the imprisoned vice president to attend and vote in the Parliament’s investiture debate took another turn today, as Oriol Junqueras’ defence lawyer filed an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court.

Only last week Judge Pablo Llanera denied the jailed Esquerra MP a prison transfer to Catalonia in order to be closer to his family, and also permission to attend the Parliament’s plenary session. The defence is arguing that this is a violation of fundamental rights, and a distortion of the proprotional representation in the Parliament’s legislative Chambers.

A distortion of Parliamentary institution

According to the Catalan Parliament’s rules of procedure, Junqueras recalled, MPs “must attend the debates and votes at the plenary” stating that their vote is indelegable. His defence also maintained that Llanera’s decision is a “distortion of the parliamentary institution.” The deposed vice-president has been held under preventive detention in Madrid for more than two months now, facing charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of funds, which can carry up to 30 years in prison under Spanish law.

“An MP must be able to cast his vote and, therefore, to participate in the plenary,” Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, said. “Not doing so would modify the logic of the parliament, and alter the representation of the people through representatives in the legislative chambers.”

“The role of deputy is irreplacable, both formally and functionally, with respect to the fundamental right for which legislative function is a vehicle: proportional representation,” he added.

Prisoners’ rights

The appeal against the Spanish justice System cites the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules, or the UN Standard Minimum Rule for the Treatment of Prisoners. Van den Eynde argues that an elected MP held in prison provisionally -with no offical charges against them and no official court date set for the case against them- “must be able to carry out their essential political functions.” The imprisonment of Junqueras cannot imply that he is unable to attend the plenary or vote, the lawyer maintained. “This would alter the very function of the Parliament,” he asserted.

The defense also put forward the possibility of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, insisting that a transfer to a Catalan prison would guarantee Junqueras personal rights such as “being closer to his wife and especially his children:”

"In the same way that no one would advocate restricting the rights to religious freedom or worship, education or health care to an inmate in prison," he adds, "a fundamental right such as that of political participation should also be protected."