The Cuixart case in Strasbourg: a European case against the "abusive limitation" of fundamental human rights

His defense believes that the pardon would not weaken the appeal to the ECHR because it does not guarantee "neither reparation nor recognition"

3 min
Cuixart's lawyer Olivier Peter, this Tuesday in press conference

BarcelonaThe violation of the right to demonstrate, of the right to be heard in court predetermined by law, to a fair trial and to an effective defence, and also of the principle of legality and the prohibition of arbitrary detention. These are some of the arguments that form the appeal that Jordi Cuixart presented last week to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the sentencing of the Catalan independence bid trials. The main objective of the document, however, is to turn his case into a European case against the "abusive limitation" of fundamental rights, as explained at a press conference by Olivier Peter, one of the lawyers of the President of Òmnium. He explained that the main argument to make in Strasbourg is that the sentence of nine years in prison for sedition violates Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights, relating to restrictions on rights and freedoms. "The right to protest cannot be limited by political will", he said, convinced that the aim of the repression in Cuixart was not to "apply the law" but to "take it away from the street" and "weaken" the role of the sovereigntist entity in the defence of the right to self-determination.

"We are going to Strasbourg to make it clear that there is a human rights defender who is a victim of reprisals[...], who was arrested for the peaceful defence of human rights", Peter insisted, confident that the trial will end with the "conviction" of the Spanish state. "If Europe tolerates that a human rights defender spends nine years in prison for exercising fundamental rights, the future for everyone will be very bleak", he warned. According to the vice-president of Òmnium, Marcel Mauri, "the resolution of Cuixart's appeal to the ECHR will have effects on the fundamental rights of all European citizens": "Europe will have to decide: either it condemns Spain [...] or it condemns democracy, there is no middle ground". In a similar vein, the international representative of the organization, Elena Jiménez, has warned that the case of Cuixart - who has been imprisoned for more than three and a half years - represents a "dangerous precedent" that could give a certain sense of "legitimacy" to the most authoritarian countries to exercise "more anti-democratic practices". His appeal, he concluded, is, in Europe, to find "a way to protect civil society everywhere".

Act of Òmnium to present Jordi Cuixart's appeal in Strasbourg

To give strength to this idea, the brief to the ECHR incorporates more than 2,000 pages with all the pronouncements of international organizations that have denounced the situation of Cuixart and have called for his release, such as the Working Group against Arbitrary Detention of the UN, the World Organization against Torture, Amnesty International, International PEN and the Council of Europe. "There have been more than a hundred international positions that have denounced the dubious democratic behaviour of the Spanish state", said Jiménez. Representatives of some of these organizations and other international personalities have spoken online at the press conference on Tuesday, held at the former Model Prison, in support of Òmnium President's cause. "His actions fall within the recognized rights [...] He should not be in prison", said Ed Donovan, adviser to the United Nations Human Rights Defenders Rapporteur, in Geneva. Meanwhile in a recorded message, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams pointed out Cuixart's case as a "flagrant" example of how "state power is used to silence civil society". "We must not allow this to happen anywhere in the world", she said.

Uncertainty about deadlines

While Mauri has remarked that the appeal to the ECHR, which could take at least a year to resolve, should not slow down the struggle for amnesty and to exercise the right to self-determination, Peter has made it clear that the fact that Cuixart can be pardoned - the granting of pardons could be imminent- does not water down his argument in Europe. "The pardon does not guarantee reparation or recognition [...] And maintains the restriction of rights", he argued. However, he has admitted that the fact that the person appealing to Strasbourg is imprisoned is an element that adds urgency to his case, a factor that would disappear with the release of the pardon. He trusts, however, that it is a "priority" case for the European Court of Justice: Òmnium repeats every time, and also this Tuesday, the positioning of the European Council, which places Cuixart as the only defender of human rights in Europe who suffers "reprisals and intimidation". The next step will be to overcome the filter of admission to proceedings. If the response is favorable, the court will issue a report and transfer the demand to the State, which will have to respond.