International observers “strongly condemn” Spanish violence
The group of observers lauds citizens and polling station staff who “performed to the best of their ability”
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.