Spain violated Puigdemont's rights by suspending MP status, UN says

Committee says no "reasonable and objective" reasons for barring him from taking seat

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaking to the media on January 31, 2023 / Albert Cadanet
Catalan News

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May 18, 2023 02:29 PM

May 19, 2023 12:20 PM

Spain violated former president Carles Puigdemont's political rights by suspending his member of parliament status in 2018 before he had any conviction, as a United Nations Human Rights Committee report says.

The body says there were no "reasonable and objective" reasons for barring the politician from taking his seat in the chamber. In a video shared minutes after the announcement was made public, Castles Puigdemont highlighted that the United Nationals are warning Spain that they have violated "the essence of a democratic government."

Meanwhile, the UN Committee disregarded that political rights were violated when Spain's Constitutional Court denied Puigdemont taking the presidential position remotely.

However, he pointed out that the report also highlights that "the return to Spain would have meant preventive prison" and praised the reason why he left the country after the 2017 independence referendum.

The UN reminded that an "exceptional suspension of public duty" imposed before the existence of a sentence requires "more strict requests than the ones in force after the ruling."

This is why "the country [Spain] violated the author's rights [Puigdemont] in favor of the UN's deal article 25, as the decision to try him for the crimes of rebellion automatically ended up with suspending him as an MP, ahead of a conviction, which was not moved by reasons seen in the legislation."

"One of the big states in the European Union is guilty, according to the United Nations, of violating the essentials rights for a democratic state to work," Puigdemont said.


On the other hand, the Committee says that even the Covid-19 pandemic allowed exceptions of in-person acts in parliaments or legal sites, "this does not mean that the requirement of attending in-person is not essential in some acts or that there is a right to be exempted from this request."

The report says that Puigdemont was "able to practice his political rights" from abroad as he took part in the electoral campaign and even delegated his vote, meaning that blocking his remote investiture cannot be considered a violation of his rights.

The text reads that the UN has urged Spain to put into practice "all the needed measures to avoid future violations in the future."

Meanwhile, Carles Puigdemont warns that his rights are still under violation because he cannot travel to Catalonia as a member of the European Parliament.

"Now is the time to get rid of all the Spanish obstacles that ban [former] minister Antoni Comín and myself to be able to be MEPs with all the freedom, as this is what more than a million people voted for," Puigdemont said in the video.

Meanwhile, the Spanish vice president, Nadia Calviño, called for Carles Puigdemont to "return to Spain to be tried," which is one of the "conclusions" of the UN's Committee report. 

The text says that "Puigdemont has to return, be tried, and take accountability of what happened with the other people that took part in those acts," Calviño said during an interview with Catalunya Ràdio radio station on Friday morning.

On the other hand, however, Junts president and suspended parliament speaker Laura Borràs said that the report acknowledges Puigdemont's political exile and that "it does not fit well with a democracy."

Puigdemont barred from being reelected in 2018 for not attending plenary in person

Carles Puigdemont was ousted from power on October 27, 2017, the same day the Catalan parliament declared independence.

During the following days, he exiled in Belgium – where he remains, five and a half years later – in order to avoid facing a legal case over the independence push in Spain. Indeed, on October 30, 2017, the Spanish public prosecutor presented charges against him and other ousted government members and senior officials for rebellion and misuse of funds.

However, Puigdemont ran in the December 2017 Catalan election from Brussels and his party came first among the pro-independence bloc – subsequently, he garnered an absolute majority in parliament to be reelected, but could not be appointed by the chamber.

In January 2018, the Spanish Constitutional Court barred his bid on the grounds that presidential bidders have to present their candidacies in person before the other MPs, something impossible for Puigdemont unless he returned to Catalonia.

After he failed to come back, on January 30, 2018, the then parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, barred his bid following the court's indications.

His party colleague Quim Torra was eventually appointed Catalan president, and in a separate decision, in July 2018, the Spanish judiciary suspended Puigdemont as MP while he was untried – he still had his seat, but could not participate in the discussions or votes.

Around five years later, the UN Human Rights Committee rules out any wrongdoing by Spain when it prevented Puigdemont's plans to be back in office. Yet, the United Nations does see a breach of political rights for suspending his MP status without him being sentenced to a disqualification from public office.