Ombudsman warns of ‘regression’ of rights due to direct rule
Annual report denounces violations of the law on behalf of the state and rejects police violence on October 1
The Catalan ombudsman has warned of the impact that the “disproportionate application” of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution is having, with the “regression” of civil and political rights in Catalonia. The ombudsman’s annual report for 2017, handed in to the Catalan parliament president Roger Torrent on Friday, warns of infringements to basic rights: “The country has undergone a setback due to the violations of the Constitution and other laws passed by the Catalan government, as well as due to the response of the State government to these violations,” the report says.
The 360-page report on the previous 12 months also calls for respect for political officials while criticizing the imprisonment of Catalan political leaders for organizing the referendum on independence that was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court. According to the ombudsman, the political use of the judiciary threatens basic rights, such as the freedom of expression and the right to assembly and protest. The report also rejects the use of violence by Spanish police on October 1 in their attempts to prevent the referendum taking place. The ombudsman received 469 complaints and 121 inquiries related to the events of October 1.
Negative effects on “significant social rights”
In condemning the consequences of the imposition of direct rule through the triggering of Article 155, the report points out the negative effects on “significant social rights”. One example it provides is the suspension of a joint project for 2016-2019 between the Catalan government and the Barcelona city council to provide social services. The report also mentions the suspension of projects to provide former political prisoners of the Civil War and the Franco era with financial compensation, as well as the cancelling of the project to excavate mass graves from the Civil War period and the repression that followed.
The ombudsman’s report is also highly critical of the Spanish government’s many court challenges of laws passed in the Catalan parliament. The report points out that since 2006, Madrid has challenged over 40 pieces of Catalan legislation and warns that over half of these have repercussions on social policy and the Catalan government’s finances. Among the examples the report cites are the urgent measures passed to tackle emergencies in housing and energy poverty.
Meanwhile, one of the most important events of 2017 was the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. On this issue, the Ombudsman’s report calls for the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, to be given full access to police coordination on both a state and international level. The ombudsman also finds it “outrageous” that no government representative has appeared in either the Spanish or Catalan parliaments to report on the August 17 attacks.