European justice supports Spain on Catalan extraditions

THE European Commission has backed Spain on the extradition of Catalan exiles without considering whether they will receive a fair trial, in a decision that could have implications for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Following Belgium’s refusal to extradite former Catalan minister Lluis Puig in January 2021, Pablo Llarena, the Spanish judge handling the case against various leaders of Catalonia’s independence movement, has asked the European Court of Justice for clarification. on whether the decision to deny Puig’s surrender to Spanish authorities was legal.

On April 5, the European Commission sided with the arguments of the Spanish judiciary that extradition should be possible between EU member states, provided that there are no “systemic failures in the Spanish rule of law.

European Commission lawyer Julio Baquero said: “There is no systemic failure in the rule of law in Spain.

The exiled independence leaders’ legal teams nevertheless argued that there were “widespread” problems with Spain’s justice system, echoing Belgium’s initial argument that Puig could see his fundamental rights violated by an unfair trial. in Spain – an opinion based on reports of the UN Working Group. on arbitrary detention.

In addition to the defense teams of the Catalan exiles, the hearing was also attended by representatives of the Belgian judiciary, the Spanish Solicitor General and representatives of Poland and Romania, who presented opinions similar to that of Spain. concerning Belgium’s right to assess possible violations of fundamental human rights.

While Italy has initiated an open extradition procedure against Puigdemont since his one-day arrest on the island of Sardinia in September last year, the Italian judiciary has so far given no opinion on the question.

The European Commission’s decision could have implications for the future not only of Puigdemont, but also of five other pro-independence figures who have been in exile since the day after Catalonia’s independence referendum in 2017. This could still be affected. whether or not the European Court of Justice decides that three of the Catalan exiles enjoy immunity as MEPs.

The European magistrates will deliver their decision following a non-binding opinion from the Court’s Advocate General, Richard de la Tour, on July 14. However, the final decision on these extradition cases will always rest with the Belgian and Italian courts, regardless of the opinion of the European courts.