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International observers “strongly condemn” Spanish violence

The group of observers lauds citizens and polling station staff who “performed to the best of their ability”

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04 October 2017 02:12 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The recent actions taken by the Spanish government in response to the October 1 referendum in Catalonia have not gone unnoticed by the international community. Ambassador Daan W. Everts lead a group of international observers to report on their findings, starting in September, for the events leading up to and during Sunday’s referendum. The International Limited Observation Mission (ILOM) published their findings October 3, providing a comprehensive rundown of recent events in Catalonia, as well as their opinion.

Condemns the violence that injured hundreds of people

The report begins by “strongly condemning” the violence seen on Sunday October 1, and stating that this use of force by Spanish police “has no place in established democracy.” Further, ILOM made note of the serious concern on “fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and due process” raised by stakeholders and the international community, relating to many actions by the Spanish government, which they list in full.

Inasmuch, they observed that “the event took place under adverse circumstances,” in which the polling staff “performed to the best of their ability.” Indeed, the ILOM highlighted both the “dedication” of the polling station staff and the “determination” of those who wished to cast their vote.

  • “The use of force displayed by the Spanish police has no place in established democracies”

    Daan W. Everts · Head of international observation mission

A forceful response

The group noticed the “forceful” response by the Spanish government to “prevent and dismantle any attempts to implement” the vote. Indeed, they then said that the Catalan Election Administration worked “in anonymity and without transparency” precisely due to “concerns about repercussions from the Spanish government.” As a consequence, ILOM observed that “internationally accepted guarantees of a properly conducted referendum were unlikely to occur.”

The international observers stated that on the day of the vote, in 98% of the polling stations they visited, “people were able to cast their vote.” This, despite the “intervention” that they witnessed at the hand of both Spanish police entities (the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía and Guardia Civil).

Suspended voting process

Indeed, they observed that in more than 25% of the polling stations they visited, the “voting  process  was  temporarily  suspended,  and  the  voting  materials  were  hidden  in  order  to  prevent  confiscation  by  security forces.”

This was in fact only one of the international observer groups that had come to monitor the situation in Catalonia. 

The report in full states that:

  • The ILOM strongly condemns the violence that injured hundreds of people and has been widely reported on in the international media.
  • The use of force displayed by the Spanish police has no place in established democracies.
  • Given the tense conditions of the day, the ILOM noted the dedication of local poll workers and the determination of citizens to cast their vote.
  • The  Spanish  government  responded  forcefully  to  prevent  and  dismantle  any  attempts  to  implement  it,  issuing  warnings  of  legal  consequences to senior officials, mayors, election commission members, media outlets,  non-governmental organizations, and others.
  • Many stakeholders raised serious concerns about fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and due process. There were also expressions of concern from abroad. 
  • These  actions  included  the  closing  of  websites,  the  search  and  seizure  of  materials,  the  assumption  of  control  over  Catalonia’s  finances,  the  bringing  of  Catalonia’s  police  force  under  the  coordination  of  the  Ministry  of  Interior,  the  deployment of extra police forces, the use of the Constitutional Court’s ability to impose  fines, the detainment of Catalan officials, and multiple investigations into sedition.
  • The event took place under adverse circumstances. 
  • The  ILOM  observed  that,  despite  these  circumstances,  polling  station  staff  performed to the best of their ability in trying to cope, and in trying to follow electoral  procedures.
  • The concerns about repercussions from the Spanish government led the Election Administration, which organized the voting, to struggle with the preparations for the referendum and work in anonymity and without transparency. As a consequence, the ILOM observed that internationally accepted guarantees of a properly conducted referendum were unlikely to occur.  
  • Cyberspace became  an  increasing  battleground,  with  the  Catalan  government  and  pro-referendum  advocates turning to the Internet, social media, and mobile applications to disseminate  information,  while  the  Spanish  government  closed  down  a  large  number  of  websites  related to the referendum. The ILOM also observed the use of technology and attempts to block it on 1 October.
  • The  Spanish  government  prohibited  postal  services  from  delivering  electoral  information  or  notices,  preventing  notification  of  the  selected  polling  members.
  • In  98%  of  the  polling  stations  visited  people  were  able  to  cast  their  vote.
  • The ILOM observed the intervention of Spanish National Police (Cuerpo Nacional de Policía) and Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) into the process. In  more  than  25%  of  the  polling  stations  visited,  the  voting  process  was  temporarily  suspended,  and  the  voting  materials  were  hidden  in  order  to  prevent  confiscation  by  security forces. 

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  • Head of international observation mission by ILOM Daan W. Everts speaking of the group's goals in September, alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs Raul Romeva (by ACN)

  • Head of international observation mission by ILOM Daan W. Everts speaking of the group's goals in September, alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs Raul Romeva (by ACN)