UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues: 'Non-violent political dissent should not give rise to criminal charges'

Fernand de Varennes expresses "concern" for the charges of rebellion against Catalan political figures and protesters

UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities, Fernand de Varennes (by UN)
UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities, Fernand de Varennes (by UN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 26, 2019 08:47 AM

The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, said on Friday that "non-violent political dissent by minorities should not give rise to criminal charges."

In a statement at the end of a 12-day mission in Spain that included visits to Catalonia, De Varennes joined "the concerns" of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, who issued a statement on April 6, 2018 urging Spanish authorities to "refrain pursuing criminal charge of rebellion against political figures and protesters belonging to the Catalan minority."

De Varennes said that although his UN colleague "considered the matter strictly from the point of view of freedom of opinion and expression", he joined the "concerns in terms of the signal this gives to minorities more generally." According to the UN Special Rapporteur on minorities, "such restrictions should only be imposed where they are strictly necessary and proportionate."

The UN Special Rapporteur mission focused on minorities such as "Roma, persons of African Descent, migrants and religious minorities such as Muslims," who are "usually the main targets and victims of intolerance in Spain. However, he pointed out that "because of events in Catalonia in 2017" he was "made aware of claims of an increasing number of incidents involving members of the Catalan minority."

"Further efforts are needed to combat all forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. In my view it should be a priority that alleged cases of hate speech committed on the internet and in the media be more effectively investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned", he said.

De Varennes also addressed linguistic rights during his mission. He confirmed "Spain made significant strides" to protect linguistic minorities but saw "a number of areas where there may be gaps in the effective implementation of these rights, particularly in education, law-enforcement and the judiciary."