Pre-trial detention is measure of last resort, says UN Human Rights Commission
High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also "dismayed by use of violence" during October 1 referendum
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has spoken out about Spain’s pre-trial imprisonment of pro-independence leaders.
“I remind the authorities that pre-trial detention should be considered a measure of last resort,” he said in a statement regarding recent human rights developments. “I encourage resolution of the situation through political dialogue,” he went on to say.
The proposed presidential candidate, Jordi Sànchez, and grassroots leader Jordi Cuixart, have been behind bars for over four months awaiting trial. The charges against them can carry up to 30 years in jail. The deposed vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and dismissed MP Joaquim Forn have been imprisoned in the Madrid region since November 2.
Numerous appeals for their release have thus far been denied on the grounds that it is necessary to keep them locked up lest they end up committing the same crimes again. They all played prominent roles in Catalonia’s push for independence at the end of 2017.
Use of violence
The High Commissioner for Human Rights also criticized the use of Spanish police violence. “In Spain, I was dismayed by the violence which broke out during October’s referendum on independence in Catalonia,” he said. “Given what appeared to be excessive use of force by police, the Government’s characterization of police action on October 1 as ‘legal, legitimate and necessary’ is questionable.”
The UN Human Rights Commission has been keeping an eye on human rights violations worldwide. In September, 2017, in the run-up to the independence referendum, it called on the Spanish government “to ensure that measures taken ahead of the Catalan referendum on 1 October do not interfere with the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and public participation.”