Catalan Language organisations seek to overturn 25%-in-Spanish ruling
They argue that the principle of the "judge predetermined by law" has been violated
BarcelonaA front of organisations and unions promoting Catalan –among them Plataforma per la Llengua, USTEC, SEPC and Intersindical– have presented an appeal before Catalonia's High Court to revoke the sentence that establishes 25% of classes have to be taught in Spanish in Catalan schools. They consider that there has been a violation of fundamental rights because the principle of the "judge predetermined by law" was not respected. They argue that the president of the Administrative Chamber, Javier Aguayo, "was able to choose to participate in this case" following the rules for the distribution of cases in the courts. Yet these rules do not conform to international law because they allow court presidents to intervene in cases that have "social, economic or media impact". Although it has not participated in this appeal, Òmnium Cultural has also backed the initiative.
Lawyer Ramon Llena, who advises the Council for the Republic and too part in the preparation of the appeal, explained that both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights establish that the distribution of cases has to be random and magistrates cannot decide on which cases they take part in to avoid suspicions of bias. "Distribution rules have to ensure that this is so and that there are no traces of partiality," Llena said. In this sense, he explained that in December 2020 a regulation was approved on the rules for the distribution of cases which allow chamber presidents to participate in cases they consider of public relevance. Specifically, these rules state that the chamber president would "preside over the sections for the deliberation, voting and sentencing of cases in which [...] matters with special economic, social or media transcendence are dealt with."
Javier Aguayo is the president of the administrative contentious chamber of Catalonia's High Court and the appeal complains that he participated in the deliberation on the orde for a quarter of school classes to be in Spanish, despite the fact that he did not preside over the fifth section of the contentious area nor does he participate in its deliberations – he is assigned to the first section. "Despite the rules having been approved and validated at all levels of the administration of justice's organisational structure and having been officially published, we understand that they incorporate criteria that manifestly violate the principle of ordinary judge predetermined by law and allow what this constitutional principle seeks to avoid, which is that a judge or member of the sentencing court choose the issues in which they intervene and in which they do not, and can even interfere in deliberations already underway by changing the composition of the court mid-deliberation", the appeal explains.
Therefore, these entities conclude that "the unforeseen and unforeseeable intervention of Aguayo does not conform to the necessary guarantee of the constitutional right to an ordinary judge predetermined by law, nor to the same right provided for in the European Convention on Human Rights", despite the fact that Aguayo's decision is covered by the rules approved by the governing chamber of Catalonia's High Court and Spain's General Council of the Judiciary. Once the writ has been filed, the High Court will have to evaluate, first, if it accepts these organisations appeal and, then, how it responds to the appeal.
Criticism of the Generalitat
Plataforma per la Llengua, SEPC and USTEC –present at the press conference– have criticised the Generalitat for not having appealed itself. They have criticised the "inoperativeness" of the Catalan government in dealing with the 25%-in-Spanish ruling – they claim that the instructions given this Tuesday by Education minister Josep González-Cambray do not protect schools – and also its lack of transparency due to its insufficient explanations over what legal strategy the government is deploying at the High Court.