Translator's note: On Monday, in a split decision, Spain's Central Electoral Commission decided to block former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his ministers Clara Ponsatí and Toni Comín from standing as candidates in May's European election. Mr Boye, one of Puigdemont's lawyers, was nominated as his last-minute substitute.
In the face of extraordinary situations we have to react first calmly, then with sights set high. The decision from a part of Spain's Central Electoral Commission (JEC) sets a novel precedent in the electoral history of the Spanish state and that of Europe too: the heads of the list for president Puigdemont's candidacy have been excluded, not for legal reasons, but for political ones, and that cannot be tolerated.
When this kind of absolutely scandalous arbitrary act happens, everyone is free to act as they feel best but, as I've always said, when it comes to human and civil rights, to remain equidistant is to be complicit and, in as far as it concerns me, I'll never become complicit to such abuses.
The JEC's decision is an injustice which, firstly, affects president Puigdemont and ministers Ponsatí and Comín in their right to passive suffrage, but which also, and with equal importance, affects the right of all Catalans and Spaniards to freely vote for whoever they want. It's called democratic pluralism and it affects everyone's rights because we're talking about a European election in which the whole of Spain is a single constituency.
There exists no legal impediment whatsoever for the three to stand in the election, like there existed none for Lluís Puig to stand in the recent general election, nor for Clara Ponsatí to stand in the upcoming local elections, nor for all of them to stand in the 2017 Catalan general election. There being no legal impediment, it's clear it's an arbitrary, aberrant and politically motivated decision which, moreover, was communicated to my clients at the last moment with the intention of even preventing the list they headed from standing.
The objective was to silence a significant portion of the Catalan electorate. You can agree or disagree with them, but what no democrat can tolerate is that this, or any other, sector of society, be it larger or smaller, should be prevented from having an electoral list which represents it and which it wants to vote for. It's no longer about political tastes or ideology, it's about democracy.
Since I took on the defence of the exiles, nothing has been easy, but everything we've done has been with the most absolute conviction of being on the right side of history. And I continue to think so. Events and the arbitrary and illegal way the JEC has acted, which it's not alone in, force us to take their defence to its fullest conclusions, not that it could be any other way, and, above all, accept the necessary personal and professional costs.
Human rights, and civil and political rights too, don't belong solely to the left, but to society as a whole, and the duty to defend them belongs to everyone. There won't exist an egalitarian, just and democratic society if all of us who make it up can't feel like part of it and have these rights recognised and guaranteed. As such, never can a membership card or ideological certificate be demanded to defend and protect the fundamental rights of those who have them under threat.
Make no mistake, this isn't about candidates or parties, it's simply about democracy or no democracy
Many will have been surprised by my decision, but I believe that if they analyse what we've been doing and defending over this last year and a half, they'll find out that with my clients, who I'm also provisionally representing on the electoral list, I'm also united by a commitment to the defence of human rights, of civil and political rights and of the right of everyone to decide which in international law and the words of the European Court of Human Rights is called the "right to self-determination". Similarly, we're united by the belief that the best political system is democracy in the framework of a republic.
When coups d'état happen, or when the state runs its own coups, we always have to decide which side to stand on, and those of us who love freedom, democracy and fundamental rights cannot have any doubts as to which side that is. Nor can we, or we shouldn't, remain silent, because at times like this to be silent is to be complicit.
Make no mistake, this isn't about candidates or parties, it's simply about democracy or no democracy and, given the JEC's challenge, everyone will have to examine their conscience and decide where they want to stand. The JEC's decision turns the upcoming European election towards a framework of rectification which leaves no room for tactics or partisanship.
The list headed by president Puigdemont and ministers Ponsatí and Comín, whose defence I am entrusted with and who I'm provisionally substituting, is the victim of the JEC's reprisals in this election and, regardless of our ideological similarities or differences, knowing who the victims are, we should all know where to stand and who to support.
At its heart, at this point in the conflict and paraphrasing Hannah Arendt, what has to be determined here is whether we're in favour of or against the right to have rights, and if such a categorisation is also applicable to the president Puigdemont and his ministers or not. If so, any other debate is not only misguided but, moreover, leads us to be complicit with those who, in defence of the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation", are prepared to smash up even the things they claim to be defending.
Human rights, civil and political rights and the right to have rights have no flag, nor any party or ideology. They simply are. You decide, I've already done so.