The European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) has expressed its “grave concern at the extraordinary measures taken by the Spanish Court of Auditors on 29 June 2021”. The proceedings concern 34 former Catalan government officials, prime ministers and ministers, who face allegations of alleged “misuse” of public funds for international activities to promote the self-determination right and other issues related to the independence process. The Court considers that expenditure (€5.4 million) made between 2011 and 2017 by the Catalan Ministry of Foreign Action was used for illegal purposes.
The Court has the power to oblige defendants to deposit a financial guarantee before deciding whether or not the trial phase should begin. If the amount -which can run into millions of Euros- is not deposited, a defendant’s assets (personal property, bank accounts, etc.) may be seized to cover it. In the opinion of ELDH this action may constitute “a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, since the right of the defendants to a fair trial may be entirely inhibited”.
One of the defendants is Andreu Mas-Colell, former minister of economic affairs and responsible for the Catalan government budget. An international campaign and petition of support has been signed by 33 Nobel prize laureates and other leading academics. Mas-Colell was a distinguished economics professor at Harvard University and later held the post of President of the European Research Council. The Court of Auditors ordered him to deposit as a guarantee/bail 2.8 million, or his personal assets will be embargoed.
ELDH states that “the members of the Court are not judges but political figures, elected by the Spanish Parliament and Senate. This makes a fair trial even less likely. These actions and the nature of the Court of Auditors pose a grave threat not only to the defendants and their right to a fair trial under the ECHR and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, but also to the rule of law itself”.
ELDH demands that these proceedings are terminated and that the 34 defendants are relieved of the order to pay these “unacceptable guarantees”.
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