SPAIN: CSOs concerned about the rights to protest and freedom of assembly as the Catalan Tsunami Democratic movement is being investigated for terrorism

Article written for the Civic Space Watch by Alexia Ozeel, ECF, published on 20/11/2023.

Human rights organisations have expressed grave concern following the decision by the Spanish National Court to investigate members of the Catalan Tsunami Democratic movement (Tsunami) for the crime of terrorism. 

The Catalan Tsunami Democratic is a Catalan civil society movement which was created to organise and coordinate the citizens’ protests against the Spanish Supreme Court’s conviction of the Catalan independence leaders in October 2019. Numerous Spanish and international human rights organisations had expressed concern for the sentence. The actions organised by the movement, including a protest held in the Barcelona airport, are inspired by the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests for democracy.  

Early November the Spanish National Court confirmed that 12 people involved in the movement are being investigated for terrorism by the National Court for Terrorism. This includes a member of the Catalonian CSO, Òmnium Cultural and a Directa journalist Jesús Rodríguez. 

Spanish human rights organisations have denounced their criminalisation as there are concerns that the Spanish authorities’ use of judicial proceedings and police investigations aim to intimidate and dissuade partaking in peaceful actions and silence the democratic movement

Civil society organisations, including Irídia (Centro de Defensa de Derecho Humanos /Center of Defense of Human Rights) and Novact (Instituto Internacional por la Acción Noviolenta/International Institute for Nonviolent Action) are challenging and denouncing the claims of terrorism linked to actions from the Tsunami by the National Court, calling the decision “disproportionate” and defending the right for the Tsunami to protests as a “basic and democratic right”. 

The president of Irídia, Anaís Franquesa, has claimed that the investigation of the Tsunami is an example of “the extensive application of the penal code in the criminalization of protest” by the National Court. According to Franquesa, the magistrate emphasised that the “terrorism” aspect of the investigation are the citizen mobilisation and protests in the past years in areas such as the Prat airport and La Jonquera in Catalonia.  

It was announced that the prosecution will appeal the decision as it considers that the events of the Tsunami do not constitute terrorism, but public disorder, which is why they should be investigated in the courts of Barcelona and ​​not in the Spanish National Court.