Citizen pressure forces Agbar to take a step down and propose a mediation process with the Alliance Against Energy Poverty
During the mediation, the trial will be suspended temporarily, but APE will sustain the mobilization to chsllenge the repression of the defense of fundamental rights
Barcelona, May 11, 2018
The citizen campaign against Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), targetting Agbar’s attempt to bring to trial three activists from the Alliance Against Energy Poverty (APE), has proved effective, pushing the company to reverse its repressive strategy. Yesterday the Agbar Group company proposed a mediation process to avoid the shame of confronting a group that defends fundamental citizens’ rights in the courts. Today, the suspension of the trial, initially scheduled for Wednesday May 16, has been confirmed. Clearly, this decision is based on the pressure that has been built through public opinion and the numerous organisations and groups that have been determined to show the true face of Agbar.
On Monday May 7, APE announced in a press conference that Aguas de Barcelona was bringing to trial 3 activists, including its spokesperson, for an action that took place last February. The purpose of the action was to ask for the elimination of debt accumulated due to the non-payment of water bills by vulnerable families. These families had been contacting the company for months and had not received a response. Just days after the action, Agbar accepted almost all of APE’s demands and wiped off the majority of the debt accumulated by thousands of families in the city of Barcelona and some surrounding municipalities. However, the company retrospectively decided to take three of APE’s members to court for the action, scheduling the trial for Wednesday May 16th.
Since then, APE have not been silent. Throughout this week we have carried out the campaign #EncausadesPerAgbar to illuminate that, despite the efforts of the company to brand themselves a “responsible company”, Agbar are taking a social movement to court over their actions in defence of a right as basic as the human right to water. Thus, alongside intense campaigning through social media, a significant presence in the media, and protests outside Agbar’s offices every day to inform the public about this situation, we have obtained the support of more than 120 local, national and international organisations, which together with APE denounce Agbar’s repressive strategy. APE, in addition, have publicly demanded that the company reconsider its judicial strategy and punishment, making visible Agbar’s lies, which just a few days ago were still claiming that they knew nothing about this procedure.
Given that, since 2014, APE’s sole purpose has been to campaign peacefully for the defense of fundamental rights, it is disappointing that Agbar has needed to face the threat of our campaign to realize that this repressive position towards social movements does not make any sense. APE have been informed that the company has requested a mediation process through the Dean of the Bar Association of Barcelona (ICAB), María Eugenia Gay. As such, we confirm that Agbar has had to retreat in its strategy. As APE we will participate in this space for dialogue, just as we have always been open to talking about everything that affects families in vulnerable situations in pusuit of guaranteed basic supplies. This afternoon we have been informed that the judge has accepted the mediation process, which means, for practical purposes, the temporary suspension of the trial. However, APE has called for popular mobilization and support from various organizations around the judicial process, being clear that mediation is the path that Agbar proposes because its practices have been compromised.
As APE we will continue emphasizing that the defense of fundamental rights is not a crime, and we will stress this in the mediation process. It is clear that the judicial process that Agbar has promoted, and that will now be suspended, should never have begun. As APE we value immensely the impact of the campaign launched this week, and we appreciate the role of the hundreds of collectives that have supported us and helped to show that citizens are not afraid of the repression of any company against organised citizens defending their rights.
Agbar’s change of strategy shows that, in the face of the abusive practices of large companies, citizens must not step down and must continue to speak out in defense of their fundamental rights, such as access to basic supplies.
Neither thirst, nor cold, nor darkness,
And no more repression!