Williams warns of “gross violations of justice” before the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, April 10, 2019 – Jody Williams, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, denounced on Wednesday that the trial against Catalan political prisoners represents a threat to human rights. In the framework of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jody Williams insisted on the need to defend the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression, which are being threatened by trials such as the one that is currently taking place at the Spanish Supreme Court. According to Williams, “putting 12 people in prison for 18 months before the trial even begins means signalling to the people of Spain that they are guilty”.
The Nobel laureate attended the Supreme Court trial earlier in the week and called into question the validity of some of the witnesses’ testimonies. “When I was in the courtroom following the trial, I saw many policemen who were like puppets that repeated a narrative that they had learned before”, Williams remarked. She also pointed out that “in the beginning, the defence could show videos while the witnesses were testifying, but when the court saw that they contradicted the narrative of the police, they put an end to that. This is a gross violation of justice.”
Jody Williams made these statements during a roundtable that took place on Wednesday at the Council of Europe’s Palace of Europe in Strasbourg, entitled “Human Rights and the Spanish Judiciary”. The participants included Olivier Peter, the international lawyer of Òmnium Cultural’s president, Jordi Cuixart, who reminded the audience that Cuixart is a human rights defender and has been “incarcerated for organizing massive and ever peaceful demonstrations”, something that represents “a serious problem with regards to fundamental rights in Spain”. Additionally, he has clarified that to defend Cuixart and demand the release of the Catalan political prisoners is to defend the fundamental rights of all Europeans to demonstrate, to freedom of expression, and to political dissidence, amongst others, “without running the risk of being arbitrarily imprisoned or being tried by a special tribunal”.
In addition to Williams and Peter, the other speaker at the event was Rachel Lindon, a lawyer who specializes in human rights and a member of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Lindon has stated that “the detentions [of Catalan political prisoners] are arbitrary since they have been mandated by a non-competent jurisdiction in response to non-existent crimes”. The event was moderated by the German MP and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andrej Hunko.
WHO IS JODY WILLIAMS
Jody Williams (Putney, USA 1950) is an American professor who was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize along with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which she led herself. A visit to the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation signified a radical shift in her life and her professional commitments. She came to know first-hand the consequences of using antipersonnel mines in military conflicts and, after that, she started a tireless struggle to achieve the eradication of these artefacts. In 2017 she signed the “Let Catalans Vote” manifesto in support of Catalonia right to self-determination.