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Demands for UN to look into rights 'infringements' in Spain intensify

Recent reports sent to United Nations allege Spanish authorities have abused basic rights in response to 2017 independence bid


22 July 2019 12:57 PM


ACN | Barcelona

With the Catalan political crisis still far from resolved and with few signs that the huge gulf between Catalonia and Spain will be bridged any time soon, there have been increasing demands made on the United Nations to become involved.

The latest is a joint report that the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) have sent to the UN's Human Rights Council detailing "the decline of human rights in Spain."

The situation of human rights in Spain is up for Universal Periodic Review at the UN on January 22, and with that in mind, the ANC/UNPO document highlights the "persecution" of Catalan political representatives and activists by the Spanish authorities.

According to the ANC, the report focuses on the "infringements" of numerous human rights and calls for the "immediate" implementation of recent reports from the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for the “immediate” release of jailed Catalan political leaders.

Among the human rights the report claims have been infringed in Spain are the right to a fair trial, the right to assembly and protest, the right of political participation, language rights, and the right to personal freedom and safety, including the ban on arbitrary detention.

Lawyers complain of rights "infringements" in Spain

Meanwhile, the Col·lectiu Praga, which lobbies for the legal right to self-determination, and the Drets association, which is devoted to the legal defense of Catalan culture, have also complained to the UN about "the infringement of fundamental rights" in Spain.

Both lawyers' associations also want their allegations, which include a condemnation of "police violence" during the 2017 referendum and the continued imprisonment of political leaders, to be considered during the 2020 Universal Periodic Review.

In the complaint, the associations call on the UN to demand the release of jailed pro-independence leaders, an investigation into the conduct of Spanish police during the referendum, and reform of the Public Safety Law, or 'gag' law as it is popularly known.

The four-page document sent to the UN points out that the demonstrations organized by pro-independence groups at the time of the 2017 bid to split from Spain were "peaceful", and it condemns the legal persecution of activist leaders, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. 

International Trial Watch champions activist leaders' rights

And that's not all. At the end of last week, the International Trial Watch platform sent the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights a report on the case against the jailed leaders in the Supreme Court, alleging "infringement" of civil and political rights in Catalonia.

The document, which puts most focus on the accusations against Sànchez and Cuixart, says the trial is an infringement of the activist leaders' rights to assembly and protest, freedom of expression and ideology, and their right to political participation.

The so-called 'shadow report' also alleges a violation of the right to a fair trial and that the Supreme Court has shown a "possible" lack of impartiality and independence. The platform also wants the UN to consider its points during the Universal Periodic Review.

Foreign minister calls for "dialogue and a democratic solution"

In fact, just last week, Catalonia's foreign action minister, Alfred Bosch, was at the United Nations' headquarters in New York to take part in a major forum on the UN's global sustainable development goals.

As well as expressing the Catalan government's "full commitment" to the Agenda 2030 goals, Bosch took advantage of the trip to focus attention on the political crisis, calling for "dialogue and a democratic solution" between Spain and Catalonia.


  • Facade of the United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: Jordi Pujolar)

  • Facade of the United Nations building in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: Jordi Pujolar)