It is not for politics to dictate sentences. But it does demand that justice be done when the essential interests of the rule of law have been compromised. The sentence issued by the Chamber of Spain’s Supreme Court that has judged Catalan independence politicians has wanted to respond to this demand, beyond the expectations that could be harboured about the specific terms of the ruling. The sentence comes after a rigorous instruction endorsed by the Chamber. The act of the oral trial was held with total openness and transparency and all guarantees for the accused. The Court, finally, has produced a ruling based on a long effort of foundation, with a legal reasoning that, being a case of this complexity, offers matter for detailed consideration and also, as seen in the reaction to the sentence, for the discrepancy.
It was perfectly reasonable that, in the line followed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, it should be maintained that an action such as that of September and October 2017 from an autonomous government under whose orders there is an armed police force of 17,000 troops, implied violence inherent to a public power that had placed itself on the margin of obedience to the laws and projected a relevant “sense of compulsion” by itself regardless of how it manifested itself. This interpretation surely corresponded more faithfully with the social perception of what had happened in Catalonia and with the serious destabilising effects on the institutional and legal order, of coexistence and of the citizens’ rights violated by the secessionist legislation of the Autonomous Parliament.
In fact, the Court declares, “the existence of violent acts throughout the secession process has been proven”. However, the Chamber has understood that the violence required by the criminal type of rebellion, as defined in our Criminal Code, “must be instrumental, functional, directly pre-ordered violence, with no intermediate steps to the ends that animate the action of the rebels”.
Within this framework, the reasoning of the Court, what must be highlighted is that the exoneration of Catalan independence politicians from the crime of rebellion reveals their lies and cowardice, according to their own criteria. It was the accused who, in order to free themselves from the accusation of rebellion, trivialised the declaration of independence they had proclaimed with all the rhetoric typical of nationalism, leaving it reduced to little more than a diversion without further pretensions, and recognised, in short, that they lied. The Court affirms, “A decision of the Constitutional Court was sufficient to deprive of immediate enforceability the legal instruments that were intended to be effective. The conspiracy was definitively aborted with the mere exhibition of a few pages of the Spanish Official Gazette (BOE) that published the application of Article 155 of the Constitution to the Autonomous Community of Catalonia. This fact determined some of the accused to undertake a sudden flight”. The Chamber males a necessary clarification when it warns that the fact that these actions did not determine a crime of rebellion does not mean that they are insignificant, but they “satisfy the provisions of other criminal types such as, in this case, the crime of sedition".
It is evident that the sentence does not end with the destabilizing purposes of independence in Catalonia. But it does provide the essential element of the affirmation of the legal order, of the rule of law, re-established through the action of the courts. For Catalan society the question now is whether it allows itself to be dragged along by these destabilising purposes or whether it takes note of the enormous lie perpetrated by independence and by its grotesque leaderships in Barcelona and Brussels so that, drawing the appropriate consequences to begin on 10 November, it embarks on a path that leas to a destiny far removed from the one proposed by independence lie.
On the part of the State, there should be no hesitation in ensuring the legal order and integrity of the constitutional system. And that includes, today, the integrity of a sentence that must not be deprived of its preventive and punitive effects by privileged conditions of enforcement of sentences or by pardon initiatives for those who insist that "they will do it again". The effective enforcement of sentences without benefits that from now on must be excluded due to the contempt of those convicted is an essential question of the credibility of the democratic legal order. Ensuring that there is no impunity also involves providing the legal means for Carles Puigdemont to face up to his responsibilities. To this end, the new European Arrest Warrant issued by instructor Pablo Llarena at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office is directed. The Belgian authorities will have to give the answer demanded by the European judicial cooperation framework, but now with Supreme Court ruling that establishes exhaustive facts and legal reasoning. It must be ensured that, for this purpose, all means will be used including recourse to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
These are not the only issues raised by the judgment to be dealt with in the future. There are matters of legislative policy that must be addressed in due course in order to update the legal means at the disposal of the rule of law to ensure its integrity.
Translation by Blanca Domínguez