The trial against Catalan leaders in the Spanish Supreme Court carries a “high risk of violation of rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly”, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). ICJ Director of the Europe Regional Program, Róisín Pillay, also said a conviction against the twelve leaders on trial would send “a very unfortunate message, creating the perception this is a political process and undermining trust in the rule of law in Spain.”

According to the ICJ, the trial is “an overreach of criminal law” particularly given “what appears to be the lack of evidence of the use of violence” to justify rebellion and sedition charges. Pillay described the events in Catalonia in October 2017 as part of “legitimate political expression and engagement” and added this would “indeed be better resolved outside the criminal courts.”

The ICJ expert said that it’s “difficult” to “justify interference with freedom of speech, association or assembly” in the Catalan case because to do so there must be “certainty of the scope of the criminal offences. Pillay said that, however, that she didn’t want to define the case as clearly political until there is a ruling. “We need to give the Courts the opportunity to apply the law” she said.