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EUROPE / Spain must respect fundamental rights in response to Catalan referendum: UN rights experts
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 29/09/2017
Translations available: Español  Français 

Spain must respect fundamental rights in response to Catalan referendum: UN rights experts

OHCHR HCDH ACNUDH УВКПЧ 联合国人权事务高级专员办事处 المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لحقوق الإنسان


GENEVA (28 September 2017) - UN experts* have called on the Spanish authorities 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.

The Catalan government has scheduled a referendum on independence for the autonomous region for 1 October. However, the Constitutional Court of Spain decided on 6 September that the referendum would be unconstitutional.

“Regardless of the lawfulness of the referendum, the Spanish authorities have a responsibility to respect those rights that are essential to democratic societies,” the experts said.

Since the ruling, hundreds of thousands of Catalans have taken to the streets in protests.  Tensions have escalated, with the authorities searching print houses and seizing referendum material. Websites have been blocked, and political meetings stopped.

Politicians have been arrested, and leaders of the mass protests have been charged with sedition, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

“The measures we are witnessing are worrying because they appear to violate fundamental individual rights, cutting off public information and the possibility of debate at a critical moment for Spain’s democracy.”

On 21 September, more than 4,000 police officers were deployed to the autonomous region, with an order from the Government to “act in case the illegal referendum takes place”.

“We are concerned that this order and the accompanying rhetoric may heighten tensions and social unrest,” the experts said.

“We urge all parties to exercise the utmost restraint and avoid violence of any kind to ensure peaceful protests in the coming days”, they concluded.

The experts have been in contact with the government of Spain concerning the situation.

(*) The experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Alfred de Zayas                                                                                David Kaye

Here is the initial statement published by Alfred de Zayas (added by Tlaxcala)

Violation of the right of self-determination of the Catalan People

GENEVA (20 September 2017) –  Since 2015 The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, has received communications from representatives of civil society in Cataluña drawing attention to a cluster of violations of human rights and the rule of law by the Spanish government.  These communications were duly transmitted to the Spanish government without the desired effect.

On international day of Peace, the Independent Expert recalls that the right of self-determination is ius cogens and that no State can violate peremptory norms of international law with impunity.  The Spanish Constitution itself stipulates in its articles 10 and 96 the supremacy of international law and in particular international human rights law over of domestic law.  The Venice Commission has criticised the expansion of powers of the Spanish Constitutional Court to go beyond interpretation of the constitution with new executive competencies and the power to impose sanctions.

The Independent Expert calls on the government of Spain to respect the right of the people of Catalonia to exercise the democratic right of freedom of expression in the form of organizing and conducting a referendum, in the same way as the peoples of many territories including Quebec, Scotland, Montenegro have been able to vote on their status.  

Indeed, self-determination is not limited to the decolonisation context and it is high time that governments accept that the realization of internal or external self-determination is an effective conflict preventive strategy and indispensable to a democratic and equitable international order.  The expert fully endorses the report by a commission of International Experts, “Catalonia’s Legitimate Right to Decide”, presented at a side-event of the Human Rights Council on 13 September 2017 by one of the co-authors, Professor Nicolas Levrat, head of the International Law Department of the University of Geneva.

On international day of Peace the Independent Expert calls on the European Commission to defend the right of the Catalan people to express their identity in the form of a referendum, compatible with European law and international law.  The European Commission should condemn the use of direct and indirect force on a population who is intent on expressing its right to choose. 

The independent expert calls on Spain to suspend all measures of repression against the people of Catalonia and to cease interfering with the exercise of fundamental democratic rights, including the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and the non-derogable right of the self-determination of all peoples. Source


Courtesy of OHCHR
Publication date of original article: 28/09/2017
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Tags: Catalonia referendumSpanish StateUNOHuman Rights

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