Repression of the Independence movement

How has Spain managed to get the Council of Europe not to condemn its role in the 2017 Independence referendum?

PSOE and PP manoeuvre to prevent the body from criticising the "numerous criminal cases" opened against pro-independence activists

2 min
Façade of the Council of Europe building in Strasbourg

BarcelonaCouncil of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has been very close to approving a new resolution criticising Spain for "numerous criminal cases" over the organisation of the October 1, 2017 Catalan Independence Referendum and for the European arrest warrants against exiles. The text compared the Spanish state to Turkey and aspired to answer the question: "Should politicians be tried for statements made in the exercise of their mandate?" And the answer posed by rapporteur Boriss Cilevics, a Latvian Socialist MP, consisted of congratulating the Spanish government for the pardons, criticising it for the fact that they can now be reversed and recommending, once again, a reform of the crimes of sedition and rebellion. But the Spanish government will never receive a document that will force it to do all these things because PSOE and PP have joined forces to prevent its approval. By seducing a few more representatives at the last minute, PP and PSOE have managed to have any reference to Spain removed, and the country's name no longer appears next to Turkey's.

It did appear a year ago, when the Council of Europe approved a resolution that discussed "the prosecution of several Catalan politicians finally sentenced to long prison sentences for sedition and other crimes, including over statements made in the exercise of their political mandates in support of an unconstitutional referendum on the independence of Catalonia". In fact, the text that has not been approved this week is the follow-up report to last year's resolution. Both documents have been drafted by Cilevics, who spent a year doing research and visited Lledoners prison. A year later, Cilevics welcomes the pardons and is pleased that "these politicians were not forced to renounce their deeply held political views." "It reaffirms what we explained everywhere. The pardons were a first step, but totally insufficient", the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, reacted quickly. Cilevics, in fact, regrets the "numerous cases" which are still open, as well as the euro-orders.

The Catalan Government, however, will have to be satisfied with the Council of Europe's intentions, since an amendment presented by the PP has prevented the conclusions from including these criticisms. PP sources explain that they were upset with the wording and discussed it with the PSOE, which joined them in backing an alternative text. The result was very tight: 13 votes in favour of the amendment and 12 against. The losers wanted to repeat the vote, alleging that people who were not part of the commission had taken part, but the request did not go ahead. "Great satisfaction," said the PP spokesman, Pablo Hispán. The PSOE's, Antonio Gutiérrez, explained to Efe that he tried to negotiate the content of the statement with Cilevics, but could only "soften" it a little. In fact, Gutiérrez recalled that there are 11,388 elected politicians in Catalonia, "many of them pro-independence, and only seven have been convicted, not for lack of freedom of expression, but for sedition and for the organisation of an illegal referendum." On the contrary, Foreign Affairs minister Victòria Alsina celebrated the Catalan issue being followed by the Council of Europe.