According to its webpage, the Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation.
On 21 June 2021, its parliamentary assembly approved resolution no. 2381 focusing on Turkey and Spain, where almost two thirds of members condemned both nations for prosecuting its politicians “for statements made in the exercise of their political mandates”.
The joint treatment with Turkey is already a comparative grievance for Spain. True, the Sublime State is a much older member of the mentioned international organisation and the resolution text is more critical with Erdogan’s regime than with Spanish constitutional institutions; but the fact that both are together deemed guilty of taking political prisoners, which they should release without delay, amounts to a diplomatic insult.
With regards to Spain in particular, the Council of Europe recognises that senior Catalan politicians had supported an unconstitutional referendum.
But then it takes sides with such independentist officials in what could well be called a Catalanist decalogue coming from Strasbourg, where it namely:
Acknowledges that none of the Catalan officials called for violence;
Welcomes debate in Spain on the crimes of rebellion and sedition committed by those officials;
Praises those Spanish courts that acquitted some of said officials;
Supports a pardon for those that have not been acquitted, “subject to the prisoners’ expressing regret for their actions and/or undertaking not to commit further crimes”;
Issues an invitation to free political prisoners “without delay”;
Requests the decriminalisation of organising illegal referenda and, in general, criticises recourse to criminal law against any political forces in Catalonia;
Considers such criminalisation a “disproportionate sanction”;
Invites dropping extradition proceedings against the criminals;
Suggests further dropping remaining prosecutions for lower-ranking officials; and
Appeals to refrain sanctioning successors of the imprisoned politicians for symbolic actions expressing solidarity with those in detention.
Under the circumstances implied by such statements, it is clear that any government deserving a consideration of dignity should have lodged a formal protest to the Council of Europe’s secretary general; which has not been so far been done.
The case for pardon is very significant, as none of the Catalan prisoners have expressed any regret whatsoever for their actions nor have they undertaken not to commit further crimes. The Council of Europe places itself in utopia when issuing its wishful thinking conditionality.
The philosophical and political basis for this catastrophic decision is freedom of speech, understood as an overarching premise where everyone, and politicians in particular, can make statements that “shock or disturb”.
There is no consideration for the destruction of a community, even one that has been bound together for thousands of years. Nor for the protection of the many people suffering if such unity is eroded or destroyed.
The resolution recognises that freedom of expression cannot be unlimited, but its limits are so scarce, according to the Council of Europe, that we may indeed call it “quasi-absolute”.
Indeed, for the European human rights organisation there are only two boundaries that should never be overpassed:
Hate speech condoning violence against certain people or groups of people on the grounds of race, origin, religion or political opinion; or
Calls for the violent overthrow of democratic institutions.
On the one hand, it could be argued that Catalan politicians incur in both. They have created -albeit in a progressive and sometimes subtle way- a climate of hate speech admitting violence against non-independentist groups of people in Catalonia.
And the overthrow of the current institutional framework is indeed pursued through moral (and often physical) violence, either through a continuous harassment of non-independentist organisations or people over decades and with subsequent riots tolerated, when not organised, by official independentism.
On the other hand, one cannot but recall the sage words of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Libertas on the nature of human liberty: “Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things so ever are true and honourable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, less they insidiously work the ruin of the State” (no. 23).
Out of the 70 members of the assembly granting their approval, there were 24 socialists, 17 liberals, and 14 Christian-democrats. Mr. Espinosa de los Monteros, an MP belonging to VOX, the Spanish political party belonging to the ECR, opposed the resolution. Among the total of ten Spaniards, the following 3 voted in favour: the Basque sovereignist Nerea Ahedo, the Catalan independentist Laura Castel, and the communist Anton Gomez-Reino, whose party currently provides for the left-wing coalition in the Madrid government.