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On the one hand, the Spain-Catalonia dialogue table is already yielding agreements - it is said - and on the other, the application of lighter prison measure to the pro-independence political prisoners depended on the Catalan government, and more specifically on its justice ministry, administered by pro-independence ERC, given that the nine leaders jailed for the 1st October referendum were imprisoned in Catalan penitentiary centres. These are some of the arguments with which the Kingdom of Spain has responded to the questions raised  by five United Nations rapporteurs following ERC's complaint to the multilateral organization about the repression of the Catalan independence movement. The report signed by five human rights experts had asked Spain for clarification on the measures adopted to "put an end to all kinds of persecution and stigmatization" against ERC members and was interested in whether, as the party claims, ex-Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras and minister Raül Romeva were offered a "softer" penitentiary regime and privileges only in the case of expressing remorse for their actions, which were in fact determined by their legimate political views.

In its response, to which has had access, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in Geneva states that "the situation in Catalonia at the moment does not represent a challenge to the rule of law thanks to the clear improvement in the political and institutional situation." The response informs that both the Spanish government and the Catalan Generalitat have admitted the existence of a political conflict and have shown their willingness to resolve it through dialogue. It specifies that there is now a dialogue table between the two executives, which has met three times in the three years of its existence and on the last occasion reached an agreement to overcome judicialization and for the protection and promotion of the Catalan language. The response explains that a framework document for dialogue and negotiation was previously signed, that dialogue has been strengthened, given that another, bilateral committee has also been reactivated, and institutional conflict has been reduced, in addition to reforming the Penal Code to eliminate the crime of sedition.

Regarding the accusations of offering a "softer" penitentiary regime to Junqueras and Romeva if they showed remorse for their actions, the report ironically states, not without some disdain, that such an easing of conditions had no legal basis and that the "softer with access to privileges" consideration referred to in the complaint does not exist in Spanish penitentiary regulations.

In any case, the response points out that "if the allegations actually refer to the shift to an open prison regime or the granting of parole", it should be noted that while the pro-independence politicians were under the control of the penitentiary institutions dependent on Spanish interior ministry, this claim was impossible to satisfy since the politicians were in provisional prison. However, the response also notes that when they were convicted, they were shifted to Catalan jails and thus were under the supervision of the Catalan justice ministry, which holds the "exclusive competence" for the execution of Spanish legislation on penitentiary matters and "therefore could offer a more beneficial penitentiary regime in case of change or remorse." Over this point, "it is recalled that the Catalan government is in fact chaired by the ERC, the political party to which the interested persons belong." "The justice department of the Catalan government was also led by the ERC when the sentences were imposed," the response adds, referring to the former minister Esther Capella.



The report also rejects the complaints about the fact that the pardon granted to the Catalan pro-independence leaders was only partial; after explaining the legal functioning of the pardon process in Spain, the Spanish delegate argues that if the sentencing court issues a negative report, as was the case, the pardon cannot be total.

Rovira, not an "exile" 

Spain's response emphasizes that the pro-independence ERC is a fully legal party and participates in public life on equal footing with other political parties. It highlights that ERC has 12 deputies in Congress, 14 in the Senate, 2 in the European Parliament, and 33 in the Catalan Parliament, as well as 3,107 municipal councillor positions in Catalonia. It adds that ERC leads the government of Catalonia as well as a total of 359 municipalities. The response maintains that "none of the judicial processes mentioned in the report are linked to the exercise of these rights of representation, but rather to violations of the law proven in a transparent, fair, and impartial judicial process".

The report asserts that Marta Rovira, the general secretary of ERC, left for Switzerland in 2018 to avoid appearing before Spanish justice. It argues that her situation cannot thus be classified as an "exile", as this term only applies to those persecuted for their ideas or political activity who would not be guaranteed impartial treatment or judicial process if they appeared before justice or authorities. It notes that Rovira, following the reform of the Penal Code, no longer faces charges that carry a prison sentence.

The response downplays all the cases denounced by ERC. It recalls that current Catalan deputies Josep Maria Jové and Lluís Salvadó have no convictions and are thus able to exercise their public functions, while they await trial. Roger Torrent has been acquitted of disobedience and is carrying out his duties normally, while Jordi Solé faces a procedure in the Court of Accounts, which has no criminal nature.

Espionage with Pegasus software

Regarding the Pegasus espionage, Spain repeats the line that any information obtained from communications intercepted after judicial authorization has been used exclusively for "national security protection." It assures that the fundamental rights of those affected have been protected at all times by a Supreme Court judge. In the case of unauthorized interventions, it adds that the affected party has the right to "initiate legal actions" to determine the identity of those responsible and demand compensation for the damage caused.

The document details the conditions under which surveillance can be conducted, but asserts that the Spanish government is kept out of the loop by the process: the executive establishes strategic lines of action for security matters but "does not know nor propose operational decisions on specific individuals derived from the aforementioned strategic lines."

The report from the Kingdom of Spain responds to questions raised by five United Nations commissioners, following a communication from the general secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira. The five who signed the questions sent to Spain were the special rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, Clement Nyaletsossi; the vice chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mumba Malila; the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan; the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite; and the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the fight against terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin.

Now that the Spanish state has responded, the rapporteurs will have to present their conclusions.