Council of Europe states peaceful pursuit of independence is freedom of speech

Report warns against detaining politicians unless they advocate for or approve violence

VilaWeb
VilaWeb / Catalan News Agency
25.10.2022 - 11:38

The Council of Europe has published a report defending the right to the “peaceful” pursuit of independence as “freedom of speech.” Democratically proposing structural or constitutional changes is protected as freedom of expression, according to the report from Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić. Politicians campaigning for such changes should not be detained except where their speech is “conducive to violence.”

The nine-page report, ‘Freedom of political speech: an imperative for democracy’, does not reference the Catalan independence movement or any other specific cases, but it does quote extensively from Boriss Cilevičs report in which the Council of Europe rapporteur criticized Spain’s handling of the exiled and former jailed Catalan pro-independence figures. The document includes the views of various Council of Europe bodies: the Parliamentary Assembly, the Venice Commission, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

Pejčinović’s report is based on Resolution 2381 of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, which debated the Cilevičs report. This text recognized that the jailed Catalan independence leaders were “political prisoners”, and urged Spain to reform its Penal Code, specifically the crimes of rebellion and sedition. That document also acknowledged that there was no violence on the part of the public during Catalonia’s independence referendum on October 1, 2017.

Pro-independence parties contacted by the Catalan News Agency (ACN) trust that the latest report can help smooth the path for politicians and activists who have taken their cases to the European Court of Human Rights. The formerly jailed, now-pardoned independence leaders have accused the Spanish state of intentionally violating their right to freedom of expression.

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