Lawyers and victims of 2017 referendum launch suit accusing former Spanish officials of crimes against humanity

Charges brought against interior ministry and police heads at the time alleges operation to halt independence vote was “systematic and planned attack”

Protesters in front of Spanish police officers on referendum day (by Carles Palacio)
Protesters in front of Spanish police officers on referendum day (by Carles Palacio) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 3, 2019 05:07 PM

Organizations representing lawyers and victims of Spanish police violence during the independence referendum on October 1, 2017, have filed a suit in Spain's National Court alleging crimes against humanity by the former leadership of the Spanish National and Guardia Civil police forces and interior ministry officials.

The suit describes the operation to halt the vote designed by ministry and police officials as a “systematic and planned attack” aimed to produce "injury and torture" directed at the civilian population for political and ideological purposes. The suit has also been filed with the International Criminal Court in the Hague should the National Court dismiss the case.

The Athens Association of Jurists for Civil Rights, the Catalan Association of People Affected by the Events of October 1, and the Association of Lawyers for Democracy of Lleida, together with nine individuals injured by police conduct, announced the suit during an event at Catalonia's College of Journalists on Thursday.

Among those named in the suit is the former state secretary José Antonio Nieto, the former Guardia Civil colonel and head of the police operation Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the former heads of Spain's National Police in Catalonia Sebastián Trapote and Ángel Gonzalo, and the Spanish government's former delegate to Catalonia Enric Millo.

The suit demands that the former officials be taken into custody while they are investigated for a number of crimes against humanity, which carry prison sentences of up to 15 years. The offenses with which the former officials are charged have no statute of limitations and do not allow for a defense based on the grounds of political or police immunity.

The organizations behind the lawsuit also pointed out that the UN and the Council of Europe have both called on the Spanish authorities to launch an internal investigation into the conduct of Spanish police officers on the day of the referendum, but that so far no such investigation has been carried out.