All peoples have the right to self-determination.
There are quite a lot of talks lately about whether or not Catalonia has the right to self-determination and why.
In this article we want to expose the favourable arguments that we as a people can accept to exercise this universal and democratic right. We will start by trying to define and expose these arguments.
Historical Rights – Decolonisation
Between 988 and 1714 Catalonia was a sovereign country, first on its own, later as a confederation with other realms in different stages and forms, maintaining its representatives (Counts, Kings, Viceroy, Deputies), institutions (Courts, Generalitat, Chancellery, Courts of Justice), own laws (Usages and Constitutions from 1283, the last one in 1706), army (Almogàvers, Miquelets, Coroneles, Terços), currency and ambassadors (Consulate of the Sea). Catalonia also signed treaties with other states (Treaty of Corbeil with France 1258, Treaty of Genoa with England 1705). All of these trademarks define an independent country. Certainly, Catalonia was part of a confederate state (the Catalan-Aragon confederation) that respected the characteristics and singularities of all its members (Aragon, Principality of Catalonia, Valencia, Mallorca, Sardinia, Sicily).
All this ended when the Castilian occupation of 1714 took place, which reduced our country to a colonial condition. The chronicles back then spoke of “the end of the Catalan nation”. In January 1716, Philip V issued the Nueva Planta Decree: all Catalan laws and institutions were abolished and the Principality was placed under military occupation. Reprisals began and many were executed or imprisoned or fled into exile. From then on, Catalonia was governed by a military Captain General and Castilian officials. A new taxation system called the ‘cadastre’ meant that the Catalan people had to finance the occupying army. The Catalan language was banned and all existing universities were closed.
It is rather funny that current Spanish politicians claim that the unity of Spain is permanently indivisible and indissoluble, but seem to ignore that other countries have become independent from the Crown of Castile/Kingdom of Spain over the last five centuries. All became legally independent except for two of them: Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea, catalogued as colonies by the UN. They were not recognised as colonies within Spanish nor international law. They were territories of the monarchy or constitutionally Spanish at the same level as any other peninsular province.
El Salvador (1821)
Costa Rica (1821)
Dominican Republic (1821)
Equatorial Guinea (1968)
Western Sahara (1976)
Obviously, Spain never recognised the right to self-determination of any of these countries and never accepted an ordered and peaceful exercise of self-determination.
All these elements justify that historically, Catalans may want to recover the sovereignty that was snatched from them, as well as their right to self-determination.
The Devolution is the act of returning to the Catalan Nation the Laws and Freedoms, which were stolen by right of conquest. The action of restoring legitimacy and sovereignty to the Nation. For more information: Devolucio.cat
Human and Democratic Rights – Charter of the United Nations
The term “colony” is very unclear and legally rather dubious. Why are some nations catalogued as colonies by the UN and others are not? Why is Gibraltar (self-determined twice) catalogued as a colony by the UN but New Caledonia is not? If only colonies have the right to self-determination, why does France recognise the right to self-determination of New Caledonia?
What would be the difference between a colony in Africa or Asia and Catalonia?
Before their occupation and conquest both territories made free use of their resources in a sovereign way, they had their own legislation, developed their culture, sometimes their own language and their representatives were independent and sovereign enough to not have to follow orders from any other foreign territory.
Catalonia is not a colony in principle, but the State’s denial of the right to self-determination and of a national Catalan reality is proof that Catalonia is part of Spain by force. Catalonia is a territory incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile by force of arms in 1714.
Can the right to self-determination be denied to Catalonia? What’s the reasoning behind that?
If the right to self-determination allows you to democratically free yourself from the coloniser, should you not be able to do the same from the invader, conqueror, dictator or repressive authorities?
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, who proposed the League of Nations (1920), later replaced by the United Nations, had understood already that the right to self-determination could become “the guideline for international political action”, in order to allow the peoples and nations of the world a door to sovereignty by peaceful means.
With the Charter of the United Nations, in order to keep good friendship relations between nations of the world, the right to self-determination was given the status of a fundamental right and in 1966 became integrated into the International Bill of Human Rights, since the peoples and nations are formed by people who have, as an exercise of their most basic freedom, the right to a political formation and self-determination.
The Kingdom of Spain ratified this by signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which state that the right to self-determination of political communities exists and it must be defended and enforced. The constant refusal by Spain to apply and defend a legal system that they clearly subscribed to after the dictatorship of General Franco, with the pretence of being on the same level as any modern western democracy, makes no sense. Until the 1st of October 2017, this right has always been postponed. On this very important day in the history of the Catalan people, the Spanish State violated UN Resolution 2625: “Every State has the duty to promote, through joint and separate action, realisation of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter, and to render assistance to the United Nations in carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to it by the Charter regarding the implementation of the principle”.
Therefore, it is clear that the right exists and so does the duty to respect it. The right of the Catalan people to self-determination and the duty of the Spanish State to respect it, both simultaneously.
Pacta sunt servanda (“treaties shall be complied with”) describes a significant general principle of international law—one that underlies the entire system of treaty-based relations between sovereign states. According to this, states are really bound to fulfil the commitments they undertake pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral treaty once it has been ratified and then enters into force, this includes the Kingdom of Spain. The good faith element of this principle suggests that states should take the necessary steps to comply with the object and purpose of the treaty. States may not invoke restrictions imposed by domestic law as good reason for not complying with their treaty obligations provided the instrument was duly ratified by competent authorities and in accordance with constitutional and statutory requirements.
The right to self-determination is a political right which is part of the most basic fundamental rights and is a constituent element of human nature, and as such it is explicitly recognised in the Pacts and Treaties subscribed by the Kingdom of Spain.
In a scenario of equal rights, it is not admissible, in any case, to accept as normal the systematic denial from Spain of the right to self-determination of the Catalan people. The Kingdom of Spain, through its government and institutions, has opted to develop an ideological climate contrary to the free exercise of this universal right.
It is important to highlight that the referendum on self-determination was already held. The “Yes” side won, with 2,044,038 (92.01%) voting for independence and 177,547 (7.99%) voting against, on a turnout of 43.03%. The result was favourable to the constitution of a new state in the form of a Republic for Catalonia. And, as a result, it is totally adequate to act democratically in line with this.
The Catalan Parliament passed Law 19/2017, on the 6th of September, on the Referendum on self-determination which was later suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court:
2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia
On the 30th of September 2005, the Catalan Parliament approved the most ambitious Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in history. It was then approved by Spain’s Congress and later ratified in a referendum by Catalan voters. Almost immediately, the Popular Party, the centre-right group, challenged the statute before the Constitutional Court. The court, Spain’s highest body for matters related to the constitutionality of laws, deliberated for the next four years. Of the statute’s 223 articles, the court struck down 14 and curtailed another 27. The final version had nothing to do with what the Catalan people voted for. Among other things, the ruling struck down attempts to place the distinctive Catalan language above Spanish in the region; ruled as unconstitutional regional powers over courts and judges; and said: “The interpretation of the references to ‘Catalonia as a nation’ and to ‘the national reality of Catalonia’ in the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia have no legal effect“. The ‘indissoluble unity of Spain’ was mentioned no less than 8 times in the ruling. Below are a few examples of what was amended and reinterpreted by the Spanish CC:
- ‘Catalonia as a nation’, no legal validity
- Catalan judiciary powers and Catalonia’s Council of Justice were thoroughly reduced and even questioned altogether
- Judges abolished preferential status for Catalan in the administration and public mass media
- Exclusive powers granted to Catalonia, as well as the article regulating popular consultations, were also affected by judicial interpretation
- The court declared Catalonia’s attempts to set up its own tax system unconstitutional
- Exclusive and shared competences were cut back
- Role of the Ombudsman was cut back
- Social services cut back, etc.
Laws passed by the Catalan Parliament suspended by the Constitutional Court
“This is why we want a Republic, to make all these laws possible.“
More than forty Catalan laws have been appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court since the approval of the Statute of Autonomy of 2006. Most of them have been challenged, suspended or declared null by Spain’s Constitutional Court. More than half of the appeals have affected social policies and the collection of taxes by the Generalitat.
One of the most serious cases is the social law suspended by the Constitutional with regards to housing and energy poverty. Virtually all taxes created in recent years have been the target of appeals: 1 euro for prescription, tax on bank deposits, nuclear power stations, Internet operators, empty properties …
You can find a full list here: https://www.ara.cat/en/collection-Catalan-Spains-Constitutional-Court_0_1445855499.html
Report from UN independent expert on the right of self-determination of peoples in relation to the Catalan people – Alfred-Maurice de Zayas
“The European Union is based on three pillars: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. When you ignore self-determination, you are violating the three of them”.
- The right of self-determination is jus cogens, fundamental norm of superior hierarchical rank, recognised by the UN founding treaty, compulsory on national & international judicial & admin instances, and superior to any national law that may conflict with it.
- The right of self-determination refers to the peoples’ capacity to decide their political status. This includes the external exercise of deciding on secession or unification (external) as well as deciding on the degree of integration in a State (internal).
- The right of self-determination is a right recognized to peoples as right holders, and is not the prerogative of the State to grant or deny, not even on the basis of the principle of territorial integrity, unless there is external interference.
- In case of conflict between the principle of territorial integrity and the human right of self-determination, it is the latter which prevails.
- Creating obstacles to the exercise of the right of self-determination would amount to a serious violation of a fundamental human right and would result in the responsibility of the State.
- Spain has committed internationally to abide by the right of self-determination, without any reservation in that respect. CNU 1945, ICCPR 1966, ICESCR 1966.
- Like many other States, Spain has incorporated them through its ordinary mechanism of reception of international law, which in the case of Spain is Article 96 (1) of the Spanish Constitution.
- The right of self-determination is fully integrated and in force in the Spanish domestic legal system. It is not necessary to modify the Spanish Constitution in that respect.
- In accordance with the Spanish Constitution, the right of self-determination must be applied in Spain in line with the provisions of international law.
- According to articles 26 & 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (ratified and integrated into the Spanish legal system), Spain cannot invoke any domestic regulation to escape its international obligations.
- There is a “Catalan people” in Spain that holds the right of self-determination recognised by the UN and the Spanish Constitution. The guarantor of the peaceful and democratic exercise of this right is the Kingdom of Spain.
- The Spanish Government has violated the international law of articles 1, 7, 9, 10, 14, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and should be brought before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Every day there is more international support for Catalonia’s right to self-determination and we must continue raising our voices and internationalising the Catalan cause until our right is recognised. A right that has been violated by the Spanish State and which belongs to all peoples, Catalonia being no exception. We will continue until we achieve this, without giving up, until the end. Because this right belongs to us too.
VIDEO – Catalan Self-Determination (English subtitles) https://youtu.be/WIVk_ffvP7s
Sources and links of interest:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia – Unabridged edition of the 1979 Statute of Autonomy signed in Sau, the document signed in 2006, documentation related with the appeals to the Constitutional Court and the subsequent ruling
STANDING WITH CATALONIA: THE UNREPRESENTED’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE RIGHT TO DECIDE
Supreme Court: the keys to a historical sentence, and embarrassment to Spain
Catalonia Has a Right to Self-Determination
Legal Aspects of Self-Determination
International law allows unilateral indy
Five Lies They Tell to Deny Self-Determination
The Spanish Court Decision That Sparked the Modern Catalan Independence Movement
Spanish Constitutional Court cuts back Catalan Statute of Autonomy
A collection of Catalan laws challenged, suspended or declared null by Spain’s Constitutional Court
CATALONIA’S LEGITIMATE RIGHT TO DECIDE – PATHS TO SELF-DETERMINATION
Extracte traduït a l’anglès per AnnA @annuskaodena: