Spain: Ongoing detention of Jordi Sanchez is “excessive and disproportionate”
Following the decision by a Supreme Court judge not to release Jordi Sànchez, the former president of the pro-Catalan independence organisation the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Amnesty International’s Director for Europe, Gauri van Gulik said:
“The ongoing pre-trial detention of Jordi Sanchez is an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.Gauri van Gulik, Europe Director
“Rather than taking the opportunity today to put an end to his ongoing detention the Supreme Court has instead compounded this injustice. Jordi Sànchez should be immediately released. In Amnesty International´s opinion, today´s ruling does not bring new elements that justify the continuation of Sanchez´s detention. Moreover, the charges of sedition and rebellion that Sanchez and Cuixart face, according to the information available to Amnesty International, are unjustified and therefore should be withdrawn.”
Whilst calling for protests to obstruct lawful police operations, if proved, may be a punishable public order offence, it does not constitute a serious crime such as sedition or rebellion, which carries sentences of up to 10 and 30 years.
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Amnesty International does not question the 7 September ruling of the Constitutional Court suspending, as a precautionary measure, the Catalan referendum law,. However as private citizens and president of civil society organizations at the moment of the events under investigation, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart had the right to express opinions contrary to the decisions of the Court, as well as to organize peaceful meetings in support of the referendum and of Catalan independence.
While international human rights law allows states to impose some restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression for certain legitimate purposes, such as protecting public order or national security, it requires that the authorities demonstrate that such restrictions are necessary and proportionate to the stated objective. Bringing serious criminal charges against organisers of such meetings is an excessive and disproportionate measure.
Amnesty International reiterates that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly guarantee the right of individuals and civil society organizations to express their views on the referendum and on independence in general at any time, individually or collectively, including in the context of public meetings.