Some of the world’s most important human rights organizations will join Jordi Cuixart in his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg against the sentence that has kept him in prison for more than three and a half years. Cuixart is a Catalan activist and president of Òmnium Cultural. The NGO filed an appeal with the ECHR last Wednesday and today they received the support of many of the organizations that for years have been denouncing the imprisonment of the only human rights defender imprisoned in the EU, as recently highlighted by the Council of Europe.
The vice-president of Òmnium Cultural, Marcel Mauri, appeared at a press conference in the former Model Prison in Barcelona, accompanied by Cuixart’s lawyers and some of the representatives of international organizations: Ed Donovan, an adviser to the UN Human Rights Ombudsman, who was live from Geneva; Masha Chichtchenkova, European Protection Coordinator at Front Line Defenders, from Paris; and Giada Negri, from the European Civic Forum in Brussels. There were also messages from Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, from the United States; PEN International President Jennifer Clement from Mexico; and Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of the World Organization Against Torture, from Geneva. They denounced Spain’s misbehaviour in matters of rights and freedoms, and they stressed that the cause that is now going to Strasbourg is, in essence, a cause against the fundamental rights of all European citizens.
Both the Council of Europe report and the numerous international pronouncements demanding Cuixart’s release “will be documents that the court will take into account,” said one of his lawyers, Olivier Peter. The appeal is 16 pages long, but the appendix has more than 2.000 pages with all the international pronouncements. There is virtually no precedent of a prisoner arriving in Strasbourg with as many pronouncements as Cuixart, Peter said: “We have a lot of confidence because there is very clear jurisprudence that says you can never be imprisoned for exercising the right of assembly. Because it is peaceful. There have been cases in Russia, in Turkey, but now it is happening in an EU state such as Spain”.
Jordi Cuixart’s appeal specifically denounces the violation of several fundamental rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to demonstrate, the right to be tried by a court predetermined by law, the right to a fair trial and effective defense, the principle of legality, the prohibition of arbitrary detention and an abusive limitation of fundamental rights which is enshrined in Article 18 of the Convention. Peter recalled one of the clearest episodes of the violation of the right of defense: the message that the court presided by Manuel Marchena sent to the press during the trial expressing dissatisfaction with Cuixart’s defense strategy.