Statement from DSC Hamburg: Carles Puigdemont’s arrest and European Arrest Warrants against 5 further members of the Catalan government.

Hamburg, March 30, 2018

DiEM25 Hamburg utterly condemns Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany on March 25, which could be followed by his extradition to Spain. As European citizens, we are deeply concerned that if the European arrest warrants against at least six members of Puigdemont’s autumn 2017 government lead to six extraditions to Spain, this would set a disastrous precedent for the civil rights of everyone living in Europe.

If every member of a regional government in the EU were to face prosecution when they took spending decisions against the wishes of the central government of an EU state, what kind of European “democracy” would we be left with? We condemn the silence of the European Council and the European Commission regarding the arrest warrants, and generally regarding the Spanish government’s persecution of their political opponents. This silence makes a mockery of the EU government’s commitment to free speech, and of their commitment to substantial devolved powers to Europe’s regions. It shows that the Commission and the Council permits only those acts of free speech that remain within the bounds of accepted opinion and does not sanction opinions that encourage non-violent but radical changes to the political order. Akin to their commitment to devolving power to the regions, the backing of free speech and freedom of opinion is shown here to be little more than window-dressing.

It is useful window-dressing for boosting the Commission’s status worldwide, a status that can be exploited in pursuing strategic, neoliberal goals. But let us expose the lie that the European Commission is genuinely interested in the civil rights of all citizens living in the EU. If they were, they would intervene now and negotiate with the Spanish government, to end the punitive targeting of individuals acting upon peaceful political convictions. The Commission must also rediscover its tongue and its principles, to publicly reprimand the Spanish government for the brutal and systematic police violence meted out on European citizens in Catalonia on October 1, 2017, during the Catalan Independence Referendum. Although the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) reported that over 1000 citizens sought hospital treatment in the period October 1 to 4 as a result of injuries sustained while participating in democracy, the Spanish government has so far brought prosecutions against precisely zero police chiefs and police officers for inflicting this ridiculously disproportionate violence. On October 2, 2017, DiEM founding member and Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, denounced sexual attacks and harassment carried out by the police in Catalonia on October 1.

[1]Rather than displaying any solidarity with the women who may have suffered this sexual violence, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior’s immediate response was to publicly threaten Colau with prosecution under the crime of “Serious Insults against State Security Forces and Bodies,” covered by article 504.2 of the Spanish Penal Code, and punishable with sentences of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.[2] There is bitter irony in the fact that one of the few pan-European organizations who spoke out to defend Colau’s stance was Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence, a project co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the EU. The EU should unquestionably continue to fund such desperately needed projects. Yet the Commission must also put its mouth where its money is, and confront the draconian and sexist political actors in the Spanish state.

The Europe that DiEM25 strives for gives every region and municipality the sovereignty it demands. The democratic structures of such a Europe could actually bear the democratic decision of a people who want their region to be sovereign, even to the point of seceding from the union. This is impossible inside the current anti-democratic and centralist EU.

Moreover, we condemn the German judicial and political authorities who executed this dubious European arrest warrant. Puigdemont’s extradition from Germany would only be legally permissible if the actions he is accused of would constitute a comparable offence under German law. There is no valid German equivalent for the crime of “Rebellion”, which the warrant accuses him of. The crime of “High Treason against the Federal State” is listed in paragraph 81 of the German Criminal Code (German acronym: StGB). But this only covers actions in which the accused have “used violence or the threat of violence to overthrow the constitutionally regulated [state] order.”

This applies neither to Puigdemont nor to any member of his Catalan government, an institution which has consistently and explicitly called for non-violence in the pursuit of their political aims. The European arrest warrant against Puigdemont also includes the charge of Misuse of Public Funds, a crime which does have a direct equivalent in German law. However, this latter accusation exclusively pertains to Puigdemont’s decision to use public money to carry out the independence referendum.

Carpe DiEM!

 

[1] Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence, “No to impunity towards sexual violence. We support all who were attacked the 1st of October and the Major of Barcelona Ada Colau who denounced the facts.” Accessed March 30, 2018, http://usvreact.eu/no-to-impunity-towards-sexual-violence-we-support-all-who-were-attacked-the-1st-of-october-and-the-major-of-barcelona-ada-colau-who-denounced-the-facts/

[2] El Confidencial, “Interior denuncia a Colau por acusar a Policía y Guardia Civil de agresiones sexuales,” from October 2, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018, https://www.elconfidencial.com/espana/2017-10-02/interior-pide-investigar-colau-acusar-policia-guardia-civil-agresiones-sexuales_1454105/

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