Spain must free Catalan leaders and withdraw extradition requests, says Council of Europe report

Committee on Legal Affairs of human rights organization calls out Spanish authorities on independence issue

Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg
Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg / Blanca Blay

ACN | Brussels

June 3, 2021 05:33 PM

A draft report by the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs has called on Spain to release Catalonia’s jailed pro-independence leaders and withdraw the extradition requests for their exiled colleagues.

The text also calls on Spanish authorities to reform the crimes of rebellion and sedition, with the latter being the most serious offense for which nine politicians and activists were sentenced over the 2017 referendum push, with prison terms ranging from 9 to 13 years.

The report urges Spain to avoid "disproportionate sentences for non-violent infringements," as well as to stop prosecuting people showing solidarity with the jailed and exiled leaders, as happened to former president Quim Torra, who was sacked from office last September for hanging yellow ribbons and banners in solidarity with them from public buildings.

The draft was approved by the committee on Thursday and will be debated by the parliamentary assembly by the end of June.

The Council of Europe is an international organization of 47 countries that promotes democracy and protects human rights and the rule of law. While some of its members are also part of the European Union, the two organizations are independent of each other. 

Report by Latvian politician after visit to Catalonia

Latvian Socialist Boriss Cilevičs visited Catalonia in February 2020 in order to write a report on political prisoners in Europe for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after a score of council deputies proposed the initiative a month earlier.  

Cilevičs saw the jailed independence leaders, met with Catalan Ombudsman Rafael Ribó, and spoke with speaker Roger Torrent and different members of the Catalan parliament.

Leading member of the ERC pro-independence party Ernest Maragall described his time with the Council of Europe representative as a "relevant meeting" and described the fact that it had taken place as "significant."

The Cs and PPC unionist parties handed Cilevičs documents. Cs gave the official a document with the party's evaluation of the trial of the Catalan politicians, while PPC handed him high court resolutions against Catalan legislation aimed at facilitating the referendum.

Cilevičs also met with representatives of the Catalan government.

In April 2020, Cilevičs called for the release of the jailed pro-independence leaders due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.