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The French Senate was today the scene of a debate on how Spain is treating the pro-independence Catalan political prisoners and exiles. It happened when François Calvet, senator for the Parti Républicain and himself a Catalan, from Perpinyà, asked the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, what the council was doing to get the Spanish courts to redress what the UN has called the violation of rights of the Catalan leaders who are imprisoned or in exile. The commissioner appeared before the French upper house in an online session.

Calvet openly questioned "the functioning of Spanish justice" in his speech, and he began with the recent court ruling on Lluís Puig in Brussels:

"The Belgian judiciary has just rejected the extradition of former Catalan minister Lluís Puig, as had also occurred with Carles Puigdemont, and I am asking you about the situation of the Catalan political prisoners," began Calvet.

"My objective in speaking is not to give my view on political action in favour of the independence of Catalonia, but rather, on the Spanish judicial proceedings which have sentenced nine political figures to 7 and 9 years in prison. They were democratically elected, spent two years in pre-trial detention, and the Spanish Supreme Court has overturned the parole system granted to them.The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of prisoners called for the immediate release of the prisoners in 2019, and this is the first time a request for release addressed to an EU country has not been implemented," he added.

Calvet asserted that, according to the UN Working Group, the Spanish justice system "violated" the rights of the convicted Catalans, because it did not respect their right to a fair trial.

In reply, the human rights commissioner said that he has had contacts with "the Spanish government and law enforcement authorities" on the Catalan case and that he "is monitoring the transparency of these trials closely." "I have worked on the issue of Catalonia and the right to peaceful assembly, since I came to office. My team is working on this very closely, and the dialogue with the Spanish authorities is constructive," he said. But he admitted that it is a "very sensitive and very controversial" situation when it comes to human rights.

However, Dunja Mijatovic made a pledge to the French Senate. "The transparency of the proceedings will have to be followed closely and if I see any cause for concern, I will say so quickly and publicly," he added.

This is the report (Spanish version) of the UN Working Group that was mentioned in the French Senate.


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