Amnesty International in Catalan referendum trial: queue up or watch TV

  • Spain’s Supreme Court refuses to reserve seats for international observers in the courtroom

Josep Rexach Fumanya
07.02.2019 - 09:55
Actualització: 07.02.2019 - 10:55

Amnesty International will have no choice but to queue up with members of the public in order to be admitted to the Spanish Supreme Court, if they wish to act as an international observer during the trial of the Catalan pro-independence leaders. It is the only option available to the world-renowned defender of human rights, following the court’s decision not to assign a space in court for international observers. ‘We’ll have to get up early to make sure we get a spot in the queue’, an Amnesty spokesperson told this newspaper. The organisation plans to send two of its members to Madrid to occupy one of the fifty places reserved for members of the public.

Amnesty International had specifically asked Spain’s Supreme Court for a spot in the courtroom with the aim of ensuring the defendants have a fair trial. The court formally denied the request, however. International Trial Watch has made a similar request. The Court has yet to reply, but it is foreseeable that it will likewise refuse. In its written reply, the Supreme Court also refused Amnesty the right to attend as members of the media, which would be another way being granted access to the visitors’ gallery. In other words, the only option open to Amnesty is to try to attend as members of the public.

The court’s press office told VilaWeb that there will be a total of fifty seats reserved for members of the public: twenty-four for the defendants’ relatives (two for each); twenty for reporters; two for Basque MPs and several more for public officials such as the President of the Catalan government, Quim Torra, and the Vice-president Pere Aragonès, who have already announced that they will attend the first day of the trial on Tuesday. Sources close to Amnesty International have announced that they do not wish to cause a fuss as a result of the Supreme’s decision, but that it would be problematic, if they were ultimately unable to attend the trial in the public gallery.

Video stremaing 

The Supreme Court’s second chamber has refused to reserve a space for international observers, arguing that the sessions will be live-streamed on the court’s website. “Any member of the public who wishes to act as an observer can do so”, the court stated. Organisations which had intended to act as observers told this newspaper that video streaming doesn’t ensure that it will be possible to follow everything that goes on in court, as the finer details can easily get lost.

Meanwhile, International Trial Watch – Catalan Referendum Case (ITW) (a platform created specifically for the trial) has asked to meet Manuel Marchena, the President of the Second Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court, in order to ask for a seat in court. It is highly likely that the ITW’s approach will suffer the same fate and the observers will have to queue up with members of the public or resign themselves to watching the trial on TV.


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