Mixed Reactions in Slovenia to Jailing of Catalan leaders, FM Says Spain’s Sovereignty Must Be Respected

By , 15 Oct 2019, 11:19 AM Politics
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STA, 14 October 2019 - Reacting to the prison sentences handed in Spain to Catalan leaders, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said Spain was a sovereign country and that Slovenia "must not interfere". Ex Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel on the other hand spoke of an "enormous scandal" and analyst Luka Lisjak Gabrijelčič of "distinctively political" judicial arguments.

Cerar, a constitutional law expert, said it was natural that Slovenians experienced the situation emotionally, with everybody still gratefully remembering the time when the Catalan people were strong supporters of Slovenia's independence efforts.

However, the position that Cerar finds crucial is the one that Slovenia needs to take as a country, arguing this needs to be done responsibly and by taking all facts into account.

Spain is a democratic country, a law-governed country and a member of the EU that secures basic human rights to all of its citizens, Cerar said on the sidelines of a ministerial in Luxembourg.

Cerar said the case of Catalonia was in no way comparable to Slovenia's, since in 1990 and 1991 Slovenia had been striving to first even become a democracy and an EU member.

"Comparing these two processes is misguided, even if people may draw this comparison sometimes emotionally, which is understandable," he said, while assessing the decision would likely be appealed.

"We will have to see how things pan out, but at the same time we need to respect Spain's sovereignty, the sovereignty of its internal legal order, just like others respect it when Slovenia is concerned. Thus, we must not interfere," he said, saying Spain's Constitution defined Spain as a sovereign and integral country.

A very different view is held by Former Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, who labelled the verdicts an "enormous scandal", even if he had expected this.

In a statement for the STA, the member of the international team observing the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017 called on Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec to ask Spain at the European Council how it intended to "eliminate this scandal".

"I would propose that the prime minister ... asks such a question. This would be an effective measure, this would be an effective path towards gradual resolution of a paradox. This is a paradox which tarnishes the image of democracy in Europe."

While no one must directly interfere in the work of courts, the Spanish government should be asked this question, because "I think that ... all of us are of the same opinion - that organisation of elections, referendums belongs to human rights."

Slovenian historian and political analyst Luka Lisjak Gabrijelčič also said that the arguments used for handing the leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison were "distinctively political", although he expected such a decision too.

"Perhaps it is slightly surprising that very high sentences have been pronounced for all the accused, including both representatives of civil society," the expert in Spanish politics told the STA.

Lisjak Gabrijelčič believes that they have received such sentences "by error, so to say", for using political instruments to apply citizen pressure.

He noted that a majority of legal experts believed that sedition meant a "small-scale rebellion" of sorts, and that all indicators for a rebellion were also applied for sedition, only to a lesser extent.

There is no case law in this field at all, which is why a number of experts have been warning that the case is worrying, as the relevant article may be used for any act directed against legal order even if there is no violence in the process.

The last resort is the European Court of Human Rights, said Lisjak Gabrijelčič, who thinks that the developments will "certainly aggravate" the solving of the Catalan issue. "It is certainly an element which excludes a solution in the medium run.

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