The current repression of democratic and human rights in Catalonia is an affront to the core values of the European Union. The general indifference to the violation of human rights by the Spanish State will to a large degree be due to a general lack of knowledge about the fundamentals of the conflict. In an attempt to address this widespread ignorance on the issues, we are working on a series of informative videos for both Dutch- and English speaking viewers, starting with a set of interviews and conference presentations at the International Symposium on “The Catalan Question and International Law” organised by ANC Nederland and held in The Hague, The Netherlands, on November 9th, 2018.
The first video in this series is a powerful address by the eminent international lawyer Ben Emmerson QC (Queen’s Counsel), a former UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, specialised in European human rights law, public international law and international criminal law. He currently represents seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners in a case before the UN OHCHR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In this address, Mr Emmerson regards the Catalan independendence movement as essentially a liberal anti-fascist movement, which is up against a residu of Francoism that still persists in the Deep State of Spain, resulting in a politicised judiciary. He stresses that it is vital for all Europeans to become better informed about the issues since the Spanish violations constitute a serious threat to liberal democracy in general.
Emmerson’s video is enhanced with a Dutch translation in subtitles. A transcript of the speech in translation, with additional imagery and information, can be found on my website.
The second video presently referred to is an interview with professor Elisenda Paluzie, an expert in International Economics (Yale University, University of Barcelona) and the President of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC). This video interview carries an additional narrative in the titling layer and concludes with a recording of the Catalan National Anthem sung by a gathered crowd of protesters at the Plaça del Vi in Girona. in August 2018.
Elisenda Paluzie. The Catalan Question and International Law. vimeo.com/302683919
The third video shows the presentation by professor Elisenda Paluzie at the conference. She offers a detailed explanation of the conflict and the events leading up to it, from of course the point of view of the ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana), the democratic citizen’s movement she presides, providing valuable insights which are bound to foster wider awareness.
“To claim that a referendum is ‘illegal’ is absolute nonsense”. We are so happy, and honoured, to also have had the opportunity to interview Alfred De Zayas at quite some length. Professor De Zayas is an eminent professor of International Law, also a writer and historian, and he is a leading expert in the field of human rights and international law, having also served many years as independent UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. It is important to, for once we might say as far as at least a Dutch audience is concerned, really look closely at the relevant juridical aspects of the Catalan crisis, such as notably (and the following is interrelated) the right to organise a referendum, the right of self-determination as a fundamental human right, the right of secession and the limits to the right of a state to defend its territorial integrity. Though it is not likely that everybody will want to watch the entire video, we feel it is important that the solid explanations and valuable insights are available to all.
Registration of (a) Alfred De Zayas’ lecture and of (b) his answers to the questions from the attendees; I have also edited out the latter part (the answers) into a separate video entitled “The Deafening Silence on the Catalan Question”. This is listed below as the sixth video.
In this video, professor De Zayas adresses three questions from the attending audience on “The Deafening Silence on the Catalan Question”, e.g. on the contrast between, on the one hand, the close attention to the flaws of democracy in Hungary and Poland and, on the other, the general indifference to the flaws of democracy in Spain. “So here you have International Law à la carte. International Law applied selectively” (at timecode 09:25). What was the response of Jean-Claude Juncker on De Zayas’ request for EU mediation in the Catalan political conflict? How do you explain the general indifference to the issues at stake, the ignorance, the lack of awareness and of media interest? What is your appraisal of the rôle of the Spanish king in the conflict?
“What we see here – and that is the scandal”, De Zayas says at about timecode 02:00, “You have here the European Union, the European Commission, the European Parliament, betraying 7,5 million Europeans. Catalans are Europeans. They have a right to have solidarity. Also in Brussels. And Brussels has become complicit to this suppression of article 1 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is considered to be jus cogens [compelling law], which very clearly states [that] all peoples have the right to self-determination. And [that] all states parties to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have an obligation, not only not to obstruct self-determination, but a proactive obligation to facilitate it. So you have here hard law. The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is hard law. Hard law – international human rights treaty regime – [which] is incorporated into the Spanish Constitution, into the Spanish legal system, by virtue of article 10 paragraph 2 and article 96 of the Spanish Constitution.”
Consequently, therefore – which I think can be inferred from De Zayas’ argument – it is not the Catalan leadership but rather the Spanish State itself that has acted in violation of the Spanish Constitution, with its suppression of the Catalan independence movement and the wrongful qualification of the 1 October referendum as “illegal”.
This video is an excerpt from the lecture presented by professor Alfred De Zayas on “The Catalan Question and International Law” at the Conference on the Right of Self-Determination,The Hague, The Netherlands, 9 November 2018.
I expect to still produce, as soon as my schedule allows, the address given by Fernando Burgés, Programme Manager of the Unrepresented Nations and peoples Organisation (UNPO). I may also edit out the footage of a crowd of protestors singing the National Anthem of Catalonia in Girona.