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The Catalan ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, has referred the latest ruling by Spain's Court of Accounts to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly and the European Commissioner for Human Rights. The ombudsman has alerted these two human rights organs because of the "possible attack on rights" entailed by the Court of Accounts' rejection of the Catalan Institute of Finance (ICF) guarantee for the large bail sums demanded from 34 former Catalan government officials in the process it is conducting against the Generalitat's foreign policy activity.

In a statement made public this Friday, Ribó said he was "surprised" by the fact that an administrative body such as the Court of Accounts - Spain's public auditing tribunal - has not respected a measure which has the force of law, fully in force - that being the status of the decree law validated by the Parliament of Catalonia under which the ICF bail guarantees were possible. The Catalan ombudsman also recalled the approval given to the law by the Council of Statutory Guarantees, an organ whose job is to check the constitutional validity of new legislation.

The requirements of the guarantee

In the press statement, the politically-independent advocate also recalled that in accordance with civil procedural law, to which the Court of Auditors is subject, bail guarantees must meet four requirements: they must be joint and several, of indefinite duration and on a primary payer basis; and issued by a credit institution, mutual guarantee society or any other means which, in the opinion of the court, guarantees the immediate availability, where applicable, of the amount in question. According to Ribó, these requirements are "met by the guarantee of the Catalan Institute of Finance".

Defenceless

In addition, the Catalan ombudsman has also stated that he will take the case to his Spanish counterpart and ask Spain's ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo, to intervene as a result of the "serious violation of rights" and the "defenceless that this decision represents" for the former officals affected, who are now facing imminent action by the Court of Accounts to seize assets to the value of the bond amounts required.

With regard to the Council of Europe, Ribó mentioned the resolution of the human rights organ's Parliamentary Assembly, styating that it is necessary to ensure that the legal provisions related to misuse of public funds cases are applied in such a way that responsibilities are only due when real losses can be established, quantified in the budget or assets of the state.

Individuals condemned to ruin

The ombudsman also recalled that in his recent report on the granting of partial pardons to pro-independence leaders convicted by the Supreme Court, he warned that the financial sanctions by the Court of Accounts involve "condemning the people investigated to ruin, before even a verdict is given and despite the fact that many of the people now being prosecuted have already been tried at the highest jurisdictional level for the crime of misuse of public funds."

For this reason, and in line with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Catalan ombudsman is of the opinion that the Court of Accounts should halt the legal process in these cases.

 

Main photo: Catalan ombudsman, Rafael Ribó / ACN

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