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Richt o sel-law as fundamental richt for democracy: The case o hauf-free decisions anent Catalonie

A feck o democratic Catalan politicians haes political captions agin them. The Spainish government is forfendin yet again the process o the Catalan pairlament. In October, it wis acause o the wanthirldom referendum. An nou it’s the jylin o politicians for political causes. They ar socht for ‘rebellion’ an ‘embezzlement’. The definition o ‘rebeliòn’ in the Spainish constitution actually haes specifically adae wi bangstrie, something that Puidgemont, Ponsati or ither Catalan independentists haes niver promuived. An the referendum wis for the public guid, sae it cannae be embezzlement.

A ‘mids’ postur o mair autonomy for Catalonie, as propone’t by Claus Hecking in Der Spiegel, juist isnae tenable ony mair: the Catalan population haes awready votit on the question o mair autonomy an it wis approbate by thereaboot 80 per cent o the population, but than pairtly annult by the Spainish Heich Court.

Gif the Spainish government wants tae be raisonable an trulins be a democratic state, it anerly haes ae option: exeem the political prisoners an pit in place a wanthirldom referendum.

Jakob Augstein, scrievin in the Spiegel, is richt whan he says Germany sudnae haund Puidgement ower tae the Spainish government. He’s forby richt whan he says that Puidgemont’s bein liftit is a shame for Spainie, Europe an Germany. For kintras that pride theirsels on bein democratic, they cannae pit fowk in jyle juist for organisin a vote that wis pairt o the political programme that buir the gree.

This is hou it is richt tae raise the question o whit we expect o a state. Dae we expect that a state wad oppone democracy? Och naw! We sud expect an demand o governments that they ar free, an become free-er. They say they ar democracies. We can assume that, but they sud pruive that they ar, by applyin democratic principles. An there is room for chynge in the Spainish estaiblishment.

Acause freedom isnae juist gien an than it’s there for aye acause it wis gien tae ye. Freedoms an richts is like muscles: they mouter awa gif ye dinnae uise them.

The fact that fowk stoups Ponsati wis shawn in the wey she pit thegither mair nor twa hunner thoosand pound in legal upkeep in juist a few days.

Kevin McKenna is richt an aw tae say that we sud say that the Spainish state haes commitit authoritarian actions, raither than bein authoritarian. Acause pairt o that expectation is the expectation that fowk can chynge, that things can impruive. Obviously, it isnae inevitable. But we sud certainly evite the cynical attitude o ‘things is keech’ acause the anerly wey for things tae git ony better is for fowk tae imaigine the forrit an ayont an mak steps taewart that futur.

It’s the same wi individuals: gif we want fowk tae impruive, we can juist say “ye’r a dunnerheid” an lea’ it at that. Aw ye daen there is create unfreendship. It’s a fair feck better tae say “this thing is wrang; here’s hou it can be better.”

A richt free state is ane whaur ye can say whit ye want ’ithoot ony bather fae the government. A free state is ane whaur ye can chuise yer leaders, an they implement the programme ye votit for. Or in even free-er societies, ye dinnae need the middle man; ye juist vote or decide on the policies straucht-like.

An a richt free state is ane that uphauds the richt tae sel-determination; ane whaur a fowk can decide its ain futur. It’s the fowk that needs tae be in the heft. An that includes fowks that disnae yet hae their ain kintra.1 2 An that includes the richt tae lea’ the kintra they ar awready in acause ense it’s like ye’r jyle’t ’ithin the state, a Hotel California version o democracy. Ye can gie somebody aw the political richts ye want (an ye sud) as pairt o anither unit. Ye can dae the same for civil richts an aw. But ’ithoot the richt tae sel-determination, they’r still boxt in.

An democracy is aboot the laws in place representin the will o the demos, the fowk. Gif ye dinnae hae a demos, ye cannae hae a democracy. An, gif the identity o the people concernt by the political entity disnae correspond wi the political entity in question, the political entity is lackin in its democratic capacity tae represent a demos. Sae, for tae hae a fou democracy, whit recks is creatin a political entity that by lattin the fowk that isnae pairt o the demos form their ain state, gif that is whit they want.

This richt sud be applied equal-aqual an richt-like tae aw fowks in the warld. But, for the maument, the anerly kintras that is sonsie in their quest for freedom is kintras that haes support fae muckle pouers. Nou, considerin the feck o the muckle pouers is democracies, they sud be uphaudin aw ettles at wanthirldom.3

The richt tae sel-determination is estaiblisht as a principle o law applicable tae aw fowks at the Unitit Nations. The original definition o fowk is that fowks is ony group occupyin a sindry aurie.

This richt is contrastit wi the concept o ‘territorial integrity’. This concept applies anerly in the case o democracies that grant richts tae aw their citizens.4

We can argie that, in the ensaumple o Catalonie, the Spainish government haes gien unequal representation tae the different autonomist communities acause it haes lat Andalucia guide policy auries that it wadnae allou tae Catalonie.

An, by ma wey o it, the richt wey tae balance the twa richts wad be tae uphaud anerly agin threits fae ootwi’ the state mairches. That wey, it wad gie fou richts tae sel-law ’ithoot lattin the feckfu kintras mismaggle the affairs o the ither kintras.

In Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination, it is statit that the criteria for the formation o a state, an the criteria for the onhaudin o a state isnae the same: the onhaudin o a state is assumed, whaur the formation is needin tae fulfil specific criteria.5 This creates inertia whaurby the situation steys lang the same whan it could chynge for tae create a jonicker situation, mair representative o the wills o the fowks o the warld. It can forby create violent situations o war that wad hinderly be wannecessar gif states wad juist recognise the wills o the fowks tae stert wi.

Sae we can see that Catalonia is unner a government that committit actions that wisnae richt in fauvours o freedom. I say this acause the Spainish government hisnae yet lea’d the Catalans git the government they votit on an they hinnae lea’d the Catalans vote theirsels oot o Spainie an intae a new Catalonie.

An that this isnae whit we sud expect tae see, considerin Spainie is a democracy, even gif it isnae a republic. This is a fundamental pairt o a wirkin democracy: tae lea’ fowk the richt tae sae we’ll dae wir ain thing wirsels.

An this richt sud apply tae aw fowks the warld ower, even in kintras that is itherwise free. An there is mony ensaumples o sicklike kintras; we hivnae even leukit at the case o Kurdistan, the Iraq-rung pairt o whilk votit for its ain wanthirldom wi a clear majority an a muckle participation rate. Acause the ultimate richt is tae say “we’ll decide things by wirsels.”

An like for ony ither richt, we sud haud them tae accoont. Whither it’s protestin, votin, petitions, be clear on whit kin o society ye want tae be livin in, an fecht for it.

Social media image: Català: La manifestació Diada del Si es va celebrar l’11 de setembre de 2017 a Barcelona by medel. License: CC BY-SA 4.0


adae wi to do with; Andalucia an autonomous community in soothern Spain; approbate approved; auries areas; bangstrie violence to a person or property; buirt the gree won first place (in the election); captions arrest warrants; daen done; dunnerheid idiot, simpleton; ense else, otherwise; equal-aqual in equal shares, equally; ettles ambitions, desires; evite avoid, shun; exeem free; feckfu powerful; forfendin preventing, forbidding; forrit an ayont the way ahead; fowks peoples; hinderly eventually; jonicker honest, fair, just; keech shit, awful; liftit arrested; mairches borders; mismaggle interfere with; mouter decay slowly; onhaudin continuation; oppone oppose; promuive support, foster, promote; propone’t proposed; sel-law self-government; sindry distinct; sonsie successful; stoups supports; tae be in the heft to have complete control (of a situation), to have the whip hand; trulins truly, indeed; uphaudin supporting; wannecessar unnecessary; wanthirldom independence; whit recks? what does it matter?

  1. Ulrike Barten, Minorities, Minority Rights and Internal Self-Determination (Springer, 2014)
  2. Jane A. Hofbauer, Sovereignty in the Exercise of the Right to Self-Determination (BRILL, 2016)
  3. Milena Sterio, The Right to Self-determination Under International Law: “Selfistans”, Secession and the Rule of the Great Powers (Routledge, 2013)
  4. Hilly Moodrick-Even Khen, National Identities and the Right to Self-Determination of Peoples: “Civic -Nationalism -Plus” in Israel and Other Multinational States (BRILL, 2016)
  5. D. Raič, Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2002)