Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spanish Consulate in Brussels refused to process legal document written in Catalan


 Spanish government justifies this and defends the use of a security guard to "escort away" the citizen who had requested it

CNA Madrid | 

José Manuel García-Margallo / EFE 
Consulates, diplomatic missions, or Spanish consular offices in general are not expected to process documents submitted by citizens and directed to the justice administration that have been written in a co-official language, not even if the court to which it is addressed is located where that language is spoken. This is how the Spanish government justified the incident that took place on March 6 this year at the Spanish General Consulate in Brussels, when civil servants refused to process a document submitted by a Catalan citizen and addressed to a court in Sabadell (Catalonia), because it was written in Catalan rather than Spanish.

The case has surfaced because of the reply to a written inquiry sent to the Spanish government by Jordi Xuclà, a CiU MP in Madrid’s parliament. In the letters, to which the Catalan News Agency has had access, Xuclà asked why on March 6 the Consulate in Brussels refused to process a document submitted by a Catalan citizen living in Brussels, addressed to a court of law in Sabadell "simply because it was written in Catalan". The procedure requested of the consular employee consisted solely of verifying the identity of the citizen, registering the receipt of the document, and forwarding it to the Sabadell courthouse.

According to the testimony of the citizen, the behavior of the civil servant who dealt with him was absolutely fine until he noticed that the document was written in Catalan --even though he had no reason to read it. At that moment, according to what Xuclà reported in his inquiry, he was told that they could not accept it and ordered to leave. Even though the citizen explained that it was an urgent matter and asked the employee to check with his supervisor, the civil servant "refused" to comply with the request "and told a security guard to escort him out of the office".

In its response, the Spanish government justified the behavior of this civil servant, claiming that the fact that the document was addressed to a court, and not to a public administration, "excluded it from the jurisdiction of administrative law", which includes the right to submit texts written in co-official languages, and meant that it fell under the laws of civil court proceedings. 

According to the Rajoy administration, the contents of the laws of judicial procedure state that "the use of an official language other than Spanish is only admissible in those proceedings that take place, and in the documents that are presented, before the organs of the Justice Administration located in the territory of the Autonomous Community where that language is official". 

The Spanish government argues that, in this case, the procedure requested "was not a mere registration, but of a different nature" and "it required consulate to know the contents of the document submitted", because "a legal report regarding the document had to be issued and addressed to a judicial organ". For this reason, they claimed, "the interested party was asked to produce a text written in Spanish, the official working language of Consular offices in Spain and abroad".

The Spanish government also justified the use of the security guard. According to their response, the civil servant who attended to the citizen "asked the guard to accompany the party in question to a waiting room so that a supervisor could talk to him later, as he had requested", but "at no point was he expelled from the consulate".

Finally, according to the Spanish government, this same citizen "returned after a few hours to process the transaction before the same consular employee, and following the instructions that he had received".

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