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The United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled partially in favour of the Catalan president in exile, Carles Puigdemont, and has determined that Spain removed him from his seat as an MP without him having been convicted of a crime and without having "objective reasons foreseen by the law" to support this decision. The committee concludes in a resolution that has come to public knowledge today that Spain violated Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN thus requires the Spanish state to adopt the measures necessary to prevent similar violations from being repeated in the future and demands that it report to the committee within 180 days. At the same time, it found the Spanish state to be in the right over its refusal to allow the pro-independence leader to be a candidate for the presidency of Catalonia.

The ruling of the Human Rights Committee comes five years after British lawyer Ben Emmerson presented a complaint to the United Nations about the fact that Puigdemont had been prevented from being a candidate for the presidency of the Catalan government in January 2018.  As the leader of the Together for Catalonia (Junts) list, which finished as the largest party in the victorious pro-independence bloc in the elections of December 21st 2017, Puigdemont was a natural candidate to become leader of the new government, as the most likely to obtain the majority support of the house, although by this point he was in exile. Not only was the investiture blocked but Puigdemont was also stripped of his status as an MP.  



It is in relation to this second point, his suspension as an MP, that the United Nations found that Puigdemont was in the right. After accepting the president's argument to the effect that his suspension as an MP is not provided for in law, given that he did not lead a violent uprising, the UN committee concludes that the state failed to demonstrate that the suspension of Puigdemont meets with the "predictability requirements" required by the Covenant. 

Spain, condemned

Therefore, the committee concludes that the Spanish state "breached the rights" of Puigdemont under Article 25 of the Convenant, as "the decision to prosecute him for the crime of rebellion, which automatically resulted in his suspension as an MP, prior to a conviction, was not for reasons provided for in the legislation, which are reasonable and objective".

Faced with this complaint, the Spanish authorities have the obligation to provide Puigdemont with effective remedy, which "requires comprehensive reparation to the individuals whose rights have been violated", as the resolution states. However, in the present case, the committee considers that the recognition of the allegation is already sufficient reparation, but demands from Spain "the obligation to adopt the measures that are necessary to prevent similar violations from being committed in the future".

The report notes that, since Spain is a member of the Optional Protocol to this agreement, the country has undertaken to guarantee to all individuals who are in its territory the rights recognized there as well as reparation when a violation is proven. For this reason, the committee asks Spain to send information within 180 days on the measures it has adopted to apply this opinion.

The selection of a new Catalan president

With regard to the impossibility of Puigdemont taking part in the investiture process, the committee noted Puigdemont's arguments that there was no barrier established by law that required his physical presence for the investiture, that if he had returned to Spain he would have been imprisoned and that "the only way to preserve his rights was by staying outside the state's territory". But it also repeats the Spanish state's argument that this obligation to attend is implicit in the law. Finally, the committee concludes that Article 25 cannot be automatically read in favour of Puigdemont's right to be elected as president in absentia, given that he was wanted by Spanish justice and in a situation of "prosecuted but in default", and that, for this reason, there was not a violation of Article 25 of the Covenant. 

Dissenting view

The resolution as published also includes the dissenting opinion of one member of the committee, José Santos Pais, who shows his disagreement not only with the decision to condemn the attitude of Spain regarding the suspension of the mandate of Puigdemont's deputy but also expresses discrepancy with the fact that the complaint was accepted for processing, given that it considers that all the legal avenues envisaged had not been exhausted before resorting to the United Nations.