The annual report of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has presented Spain with an official reminder that neither of its two 2019 recommendations to the country have been implemented: in two separate reports, the group requested the immediate release of seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has published its annual report in the framework of the 45th Session of the Human Rights Council, which monitors the rulings issued in 2019 and this now duly informs that Spain has not implemented the international body's request. It is the only EU member state included in the report.
The annual report also reveals that Spain called for a review of the request for immediate release of the political prisoners. However, the Working Group found that the criteria for a review (essentially, the emergence of new facts, or facts which the Working Group was unaware of) were not met, and therefore declined to carry out a review. In 2019, says the report, negative responses were given on requests for review relating to unlawful detentions by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Colombia, Cameroon and Spain (2 cases).
"With the publication of this document, the Working Group has once again highlighted the Spanish state's lack of recognition of international bodies with respect to the situation in Catalonia, and its double standard in claiming the rule of law while ignoring prerogatives of international law such as the defence of human rights, judicial independence and discrimination on political grounds", argued the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), which took the case to the UN.
The two reports on the situation of the Catalan political prisoners, published last year, called for their immediate release and denounced that they had suffered violations of their rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful association, the right to liberty and personal safety, the right to freedom of thought, to equality before the law, and to participate in public affairs. They were discriminated against for expressing political views in favour of the independence of Catalonia, asserted the reports. In addition, the reports called for reparations for the damages caused and an independent investigation into the arbitrary detentions.
The Working Group also stated that, under Spanish law, the holding of a referendum on independence is not illegal, but rather it forms part of the legitimate expression protected by the rights of freedom of opinion and expression.
In 2019, the Working Group issued 85 opinions on the detention of 171 people in 42 countries. Spain is the only country included in the report that is a member of the European Union. The rulings are the result of an initiative by the defence teams of prisoners and political prisoners promoted by the Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural in 2018, which sought to confirm whether their pre-trial detention violated fundamental rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the Spanish state is a signatory.