Human Rights versus Legal Traditions

Which one is right? The rights of people as human beings, or the traditions of an old and parochial institution?

The current battle in this standoff is in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia. And we could see the situation blow to bits before the week is over.

Catalonia was its own separate region after being abandoned by the Frankish kingdom. It grew, as any other territory of that time, by conquest and marriage. The dynastic union of Catalonia and Aragon in the 12th century led to a progressive monarchy that lived on a symbiotic relationship between the monarch and the citizens.

When Ferdinand and Isabella married, they brought Aragon and Castille in to another dynastic union. While two separate political territories, they were ruled as one.

Ferdinand hoped to father a separate heir for Aragon after the death of Isabella, because he saw the pitfalls of his son-in-law’s policies while serving as regent of Castille for his daughter, who at the time was thought insane. However, this never happened, and the crowns of Castille and Aragon were officially united as the crown of Spain under Ferdinand’s grandson, Charles, who also served as Holy Roman Emperor.

So, for the last 500 years, Catalonia has been part of greater Spain. But the principles of how Catalans were governed before that were largely abandoned for most of this time, save a few decades.

All the Catalans want is to be governed in a manner they feel is fair for them. That is understandable under any circumstance.

So a Declaration of Independence by Catalonia without a doubt is an expression of human rights. That declaration is considered illegal under Spanish law. The European Union has declared this an internal matter of the Spanish state and will not intervene. Many have surmised because the EU doesn’t want the traditional order of things to be upended. However, Article 1 of the UN Charter (which Spain is a member of) says that all people have the right to self-determination in their method of being governed.

Which one is right?


Also published on Medium.

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