Labour MEP for Scotland, Catherine Stihler, has today written to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to condemn the use of European arrest warrants by Spain against political opponents.
She urges the Commission to ensure the ‘fundamental human rights’ of Catalan leader are respected and argues that arrest warrants should be ‘proportionately used where there is a significant risk to the public, such as terror related incidents, and not with the intent to settle domestic political disputes’.
Former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati, who recently returned to the University of St Andrews where she had previously worked, was made the subject of a European arrest warrant on Friday. Ms Stihler is the former rector of the university.
The full text of Catherine Stihler’s letter to Jean-Claude Juncker follows:
Dear President Juncker,
I am writing to express my utmost concern in regard to the use of European arrest warrants used by the Spanish Government to target political opponents. I believe this is exactly what happened last Friday, March 23, when a Spanish judge issued five European arrest warrants to target senior figures of the previous Catalan Government. One of the people targeted is Clara Ponsati, the former Catalan Education Minister and currently a professor at St Andrews University, which is based in my constituency of Scotland.
All people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their social, cultural and economic development. The principle of self-determination is embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. Also, under the 2003 UK Extradition Act, any individual subject to extradition can oppose their extradition in the courts.
Should these five people in question be sent back to Spain, which is likely to happen at some point, how will the Commission ensure that the fundamental rights of these five individuals are protected and that they have a fair and open trial?
Does the Commission not consider this damaging to the EU’s image as one of its member states, Spain, is suppressing and quashing political divergences within its own state? Can the EU afford to be critical of non-EU states which may implement the same techniques to quash political movements asking for change – not necessarily in the form of independence, for they could also be simply asking for a degree of political, cultural and economic autonomy?
I urge the Commission to ensure the fundamental human rights of these individuals are respected when they come to face trial and that European arrest warrants are proportionately used where there is a significant risk to the public – such as terror-related incidents – and not with the intent to settle domestic political disputes.
Catherine Stihler MEP