Catalan independence cause lands in UN’s headquarters

Carles Puigdemont travels to Geneva amid attempts of Spanish prosecutor to arrest him

The UN headquarters main building in Geneva (by Denis Balibouse/Reuters)
The UN headquarters main building in Geneva (by Denis Balibouse/Reuters) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

March 17, 2018 07:30 PM

The Catalan independence cause is landing in Geneva. Several debates will be hosted from this Saturday in different sites of the Swiss city, including the United Nations offices. The 37th ordinary session of the Council of Human Rights of the UN will prompt events on self-determination featuring Catalan speakers related to the latest push to the country’s independence last autumn, including Carles Puigdemont.

The deposed Catalan president is in the Swiss city from Saturday evening and until at least next Wednesday. It is the second time that he crosses a border since he moved to Brussels following the declaration of independence and Spain’s imposition of direct rule on Catalonia on October 27, 2017. In January he travelled to Copenhagen, for two days, amid concerns of a possible arrest by the Danish police in the event Spain reissued a European arrest warrant. In the end, he was not arrested despite the Spanish prosecution’s attempt.

Prosecutor seeking arrest

This time, the same authority has asked Mariano Rajoy’s government to work together with Interpol and the Swiss authorities to detain him. A spokesman for Switzerland’s justice said on Thursday that so far there is “no legal basis” for his arrest. The prosecutor has also asked Spain’s Supreme Court, which is in charge of the case against independence leaders, to “restrict the validity” of his passport. No other Spanish authority has made any further move.

Two other investigated officials in Switzerland

The Spanish attorney general also focused on two other leaders investigated for their role in the push for independence, Meritxell Serret and Anna Gabriel. The former is one of Puigdemont’s deposed minister who also moved to Brussels last autumn, while the latter is a former far-left CUP MP who moved to Geneva last month seeking refuge of Spain’s justice. All three will be in the Swiss city these days, along with the wives of two officials currently in pre-trial prison for the same judicial case.

Sunday: film festival on human rights

On Sunday evening, Puigdemont will take part in a debate over self-determination, during the International film festival and forum on human rights (FIFDH) in the Swiss francophone city. According to the organization, the former Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey will also take part, among others. The debate will take place immediately after the festival shows a French documentary on the Catalan crisis called ‘Catalogne, l’Espagne au bord de la crise de nerfs’ (Catalonia, Spain on the verge of a nervous breakdown). Before the projection, the deposed Catalan president will take part in a press conference.

Monday: first event at the UN offices

On Monday at 1.30pm the Catalan Institute for Human Rights (IDHC) will host a side event in the UN’s council for human rights. The debate, named ‘Human Rights Regression in Spain,’ will feature, among others, the wife of a jailed official, Laura Masvidal; the president of the IDHC, David Bondia, and a senior lecturer in Public Protest Law at the University of East Anglia, Michael Hamilton. It will be the first time that the independence cause is discussed in an event in a UN main office. Especifically, it will be held in the Room XXIII of the building.

Tuesday: deposed minister speaks

On Tuesday, another side event of the UN’s council of human rights on Catalonia will be held. Named ‘Violations of fundamental rights in the European Union: the Catalan case,’ the conference will feature Meritxell Serret and the partner of another jailed official, Txell Bonet. Both will speak as “victims of repression” will speak, along with another wife of an incarcerated leader. It will be the first time that the UN headquarters hosts events tackling the Catalan case. Other two related side events also on Tuesday will feature some MEPs, professors and a lawyer member of the team taking the incarcerated leaders’ case to the UN.

Wednesday: academic event

On Wednesday, Carles Puigdemont is a speaker in a conference named ‘Is it still important independence in the 21st century?’ and organized by the Institute of International and Development Studies, a post-graduate university in Geneva.