Strasbourg Court condemns Spain for leaking Catalan pro-sovereignty judges's ID cards to the press
The European Court of Human Rights reproaches the State for having the police draw up a police report on the magistrates
ParisThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Spain to pay €4,200 in compensation for "moral damages" to each of the Catalan judges who had appealed to the Strasbourg court after their case was dismissed in the State. The personal data and ID cards of the 33 Catalan judges who had signed a manifesto in favour of an independence referendum were leaked to the conservative daily La Razón in February 2014, a few months before the the 9 November vote on independence. The newspaper published an extensive article with the magistrates' names and ID photos.
The ECHR's sentence and arguments are a new reprimand to the State and the Spanish justice system. In the sentence, published on Tuesday, the Strasbourg court considers that the leak is a violation of the victim's privacy and reproaches the State for producing a police report on the judges –in some cases the report included their political leanings– without them having committed any crimes.
"The Court finds that there is no domestic legal provision justifying the preparation by the police of a report on citizens when there was no indication that they might have committed a crime or been involved in the preparatory steps necessary for the commission of a crime," the judgement states. Moreover, the judgement states that the mere "existence" of the police report is already a violation of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which refers to the right to privacy.
Leaked by the authorities
The ruling considers "incontestable" that the photographs published by the newspaper directed by Paco Marhuenda came from a police database "to which only the authorities had access". According to the human rights court, "there is no explanation other than that the authorities allowed this leak to be possible, thus making the defendant State responsible". In an appearance in the Spanish parliament in 2014, then Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández Díaz went so far as to assure that he "did not understand" the grounds for complaint of the judges who signed a pro-choice manifesto about the publication of their names and photographs in the press.
The ECtHR also reproached the Spanish justice system for not investigating in depth who leaked the personal data of the Catalan magistrates and gave as an example that the head of the National Police, who commissioned the police report considered "illicit" by the Strasbourg Court and to whom it was addressed, was not called to testify. Madrid's Provincial Court did not consider it relevant to question the police chief and ended up throwing out the case in 2016.
In addition to the €4,200 the State will have to pay the twenty judges who took the case to Strasbourg, the court also sentences Spain to pay €3,993 to the plaintiffs to pay for costs and expenses. In the same judgement, the ECHR rejects that plaintiffs' freedom of expression was violated, since the judges were not sanctioned for having signed the manifesto.