MANIFESTO IN SUPPORT OF CARME FORCADELL
MANIFESTO IN SUPPORT OF CARME FORCADELL FROM ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES AND FORMER ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES OF VARIOUS PARLIAMENTS
Carme Forcadell, the President of the Parliament of Catalonia from October 2015 to January 2018, has been held in prison, awaiting trial, since the 23rd of March 2018. She has been accused of the crime of rebellion, which carries with it a prison sentence of up to thirty years. This crime is only applicable to situations which involve a violent, public uprising (according to Article 472 of the Spanish Penal Code). However, in the case of Catalonia’s bid for independence, there was no violent, public uprising.
Carme Forcadell is accused of not having prevented debates and parliamentary proceedings related to the political project of creating a Catalan Republic, as pushed for by the majority of the chamber.
Nevertheless, the then president of the Parliament of Catalonia acted in accordance with the rules and procedures of the chamber, and fulfilled the roles assigned to her in her position, whilst also upholding both the principles of parliamentary autonomy and the separation of powers, as well as the elected representatives’ right to freedom of speech and their right of initiative.
The accusations brought against Carme Forcadell, therefore, affects the democratic foundations of any parliamentary system. A parliamentary democracy can not allow the political debates in its parliament to be censored, nor can it stop elected representatives from exercising their powers freely in accordance with the rules and procedures of the chamber. It can allow for - as is the case in the Spanish State – the use of mechanisms which regulate the constitutionality of the regulatory framework that comes about through the activity of the legislative chambers. However, it can not veto the exercising of functions and rights that are inherent to parliamentary work.
The free and open discussion of ideas and the parliamentary initiatives born of such discussions represent the very essence of parliamentary politics. In this respect, the use of the criminal justice system as an instrument for oppressing a parliament and its activities is wholly incompatible with the principles that govern and uphold a parliamentary democracy. Therefore:
We call for the resolution of these institutional and political conflicts through non-criminal channels.
We stand in solidarity with the former President Carme Forcadell, and we demand that she be released immediately.
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Carme Forcadell i Lluís, born in 1955, graduated in Philosophy and in Communication Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and completed a Masters in Catalan Philology at the same university. As a professor of secondary education, up until 2015, she worked as a consultant to the Catalan Ministry for Education, within the Catalan civil service, focusing on matters relating to language, interculturality and social cohesion. The majority of her political work was carried out in the Third Sector, where she helped bolster a range of important projects and social movements relating to culture and democracy.
In 2012, Carme was elected as President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), an organisation which seeks to create an independent Catalan state by democratic means. The ANC was behind the campaign “Catalonia, the new state in Europe”, which in 2012 brought more than 1.5 million supporters out onto the streets of Barcelona to show their support for Catalan independence. One year later, the ANC organised the “Catalan Way towards Independence”, a human chain that covered more than 400 kilometres, crossing the whole of Catalonia from north to south. In 2014, there was another demonstration in Barcelona, bringing together 2 million supporters who called for a referendum on Catalan independence. It should be noted that none of these actions were violent.
In 2015, Carme resigned from her role as president of the ANC and put herself forward as a candidate for the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, as part of the Junts Pel Sí (‘Together for Yes’) coalition. This political alliance brought together two of the three pro-independence parties. During the elections, the coalition managed to win a majority of the seats. Carme was then elected as President of the Parliament of Catalonia. Nobody voted against her candidacy for President.
The legislature itself was rather short-lived, lasting from 2015 to 2017. However, it was nevertheless an intense moment for Catalan politics, and was defined by the determination of the majority of the Parliament as they sought to bring about an independence referendum for Catalonia. At the same time, everyday parliamentary life became increasingly judicialised. Of the 26 laws passed by the Parliament of Catalonia, 13 of those laws would be totally overruled or partially suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The same Court also intervened to silence several political debates and parliamentary proceedings regarding Catalonia’s right to self-determination. The refusal to censure debates and prevent legislative procedures, which nevertheless met the Parliament’s general rules of procedure, led to several criminal charges being issued against the President and other members of the Catalan Parliament.
Catalonia referendum on self-determination was held on the 1st of October, 2017. However, the Spanish government actively sought to delegitimise and derail the vote by using the police force to prevent voters from accessing the polling stations. Given the Spanish government’s refusal to enter into dialogue or any kind of negotiation, the Catalan government decided to implement the result of the referendum. In response, the Spanish government dissolved both the Catalan government – leading several politicians to seek out safety in exile – and the chamber of deputies. President Forcadell was arrested and imprisoned on the 10th of November, and was granted parole the following day.
In the subsequent elections to the Parliament of Catalan, which were held on the 21st of December, 2017, Carme Forcadell was re-elected as a Member of Parliament. On the 22nd of March, 2018, she resigned from her role, just hours before she was once again imprisoned. Today, she remains a prisoner, and is awaiting trial.
In July, 2018, the German courts examined and denied Spain’s demands for the extradition of the former President of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, who was accused of the crime of “rebellion”. The German justices noted that there were no instances of violence being used, which is one of the defining characteristics of such a crime according to Spanish law.
Following on from the decision passed by the German courts, the Spanish prosecutor’s office decided to withdraw the extradition request that had been issued against Puigdemont, as well as the other extradition requests that had been issued against other exiled politicians, who had sought refuge in Belgium, Scotland, and Switzerland.
Although this decision demonstrates an inconsistency in the case, the Spanish justice system has dismissed any petitions or actions that seek to release Carme Forcadell and the other Catalan political prisoners from jail. The Attorney General for the Spanish state has already accused Carme Forcadell of the crime of rebellion and has laid down a sentence of 17 years imprisonment. VOX, a far-right party, which has initiated an additional private prosecution, has accused Carme Forcadell of rebellion and criminal association, demanding that she been handed a 62 year prison sentence.