Francisco Pérez de los Cobos (whose brother led the October 1st police crackdown), a former president of Spain’s Constitutional Court (TC), has been disqualified in the technical examination for a position of member of the European Court of Human Rights, once it became apparent that he did not know English, although he had stated in writing that he had a good command of the language.

According to Confilegal, the members of the examining board, including Catalan MEP Jordi Xuclà, began to ask questions in English, which he did not understand. At that point he asked to be interviewed in Spanish, which they did not do. Confilegal says that he asked, specifically: ‘Could you ask me in Spanish?’. The magistrate revealed that the documentation which he provided to the court, in which he claimed to speak, read, and write English correctly, was not accurate. In spite of this, sources in the Spanish Constitutional Court still argue that Pérez de los Cobos speaks English well. The assessors awarded him zero votes on the technical test last week; the political decision is still to come.

From among the three candidates for the Spanish judge’s seat on the Human Rights Court, the examiners —representatives from various member countries of the Council of Europe— chose José Martín y Pérez de Nanclares. The plenary session of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly will convene on Tuesday and must accept the recommendation, although the Spanish government could apply  pressure and, in spite of everything, get Pérez de los Cobos elected.

A controversial Constitutional Court president
Perez de los Cobos was named president of the TC in 2013 in the midst of a major controversy as he used to be a card-carrying member of the PP, his past linked to the Spanish far right, and for having voted No in the referendum on the Spanish constitution in 1978. It is a curriculum that is far removed from the impartiality that is expected of a judge, whether presiding over a court such as the Constitutional Court or being part of a body such as the European Court of Human Rights.

Pérez de los Cobos’ position regarding the Catalan independence process is well known. During his presidency, among other decisions, the TC issued a ruling against the Catalan Parliament’s declaration on November 9, 2015 that started the process to create an independent country in the form of a republic. The entire subsequent judicial offensive is based on that ruling.

This could mean that Pérez de los Cobos, if elected as a member of the European Court, would have to abstain from ruling in the event of legal action against the Spanish justice system’s repression against pro-independent leaders. His position as magistrate and his political ties would invalidate him in any deliberation on the violation of fundamental rights in Catalonia. In his curriculum sent to the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, which is the body which will decide, he said that ‘respect for and protection of human rights has always been a constant concern’ in his legal research.

It turns out that his brother Diego Pérez de los Cobos is the Colonel of the Guardia Civil responsible for bringing the rulings of the TC against the Catalan referendum to the extreme of police brutality. He was the person sent by the Spanish government to Catalonia with the intention to take control of the Catalan police force in the days ahead of 1-O, and he masterminded the police deployment that spread terror throughout Catalonia and left a thousand people injured on the day of the vote.

The other two candidates are José Martín y Pérez de Nanclares, head of the international legal advisory office of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and María Elósegui Ichaso, Professor of Philosophy of Law with the University of Zaragoza. The case of Martín y Pérez de Nanclares is also controversial due to his direct ties to the government of Mariano Rajoy, of which he is an adviser.

A former president of the TC who ripped up the constitution
Shortly after being appointed president of the Constitutional Court, Catalan weekly El Temps published a report titled Pérez de los Cobos. From Inquisitor to President, which uncovered Perez de los Cobos’ past ties to the far right. The report unveiled that “Pérez de los Cobos’ father was a member of Fuerza Nueva [a Spanish fascist party], and he was a candidate for them in 1977 elections”. Hence, “the admiration of his son, current president of the TC, for the ideals of Fuerza Nueva and its leader, Blas Piñar”. The report also revealed that Pérez de los Cobos had campaigned in the referendum on the Spanish constitution in favor of the “No” vote and that, as a teenager, he ripped up a copy and threw it into the trash in front of his peers. A teacher had given them a copy of the Spanish constitution just when it was approved, in 1978, according to a former classmate who spoke with El Temps: “The class ended and, upon leaving the school, in a spot where everyone could see him, he ripped it up and threw it away. ‘

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Vicent Partal
Director de VilaWeb