Spain: human rights abuses and political prosecution

Spain signed and ratified the Charter of the UN and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, treaties that recognise the peoples’ right to self-determination, but the Spanish government continues rejecting that right for the citizens of Catalonia. We want to live in a country that respects its citizens and human rights and does not discriminate against minorities.

In October 2022, the Council of Europe expressed that anyone, and especially politicians, is allowed to make proposals defending constitutional changes, including full independence of a region”. However, when on the 1st October 2017 Catalonia held a democratic, binding independence referendum, it was deemed “illegal” by the Spanish authorities. Police forces brutally charged peaceful crowds standing in lines to exercise their right to vote.

International organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe denounced this excessive use of force, but the Spanish government downplayed the violence. There has been no condemnation or resignation for these actions.

The referendum led to thousands of prosecutions and the imprisonment of Catalan political representatives and social leaders, who received a disproportionate sentence of a total of 100 years in jail. Moreover, repression also affected mayors, public officers, activists and many other people, adding up to more than 4,000 people retaliated against in Catalonia, still today. Seven Catalan representatives had to flee into exile.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions demanded the release of social leaders Jordi Sànchez, formerly the president of the Catalan National Assembly, and Jordi Cuixart of Òmnium. The International Commission of Jurists publicly condemned the sentences for restricting the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues warned of the increase in hate speech and repression against Catalans.

After the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe called on the release of the Catalan political prisoners, the Spanish government officially pardoned them. However, they are still banned from public office, and the pardons are being challenged in Spanish courts and could be overturned

In 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Committee denounced that Spain violated the political rights of four former Catalan Parliament members under Art 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, because they were suspended from public duties in 2018 before their conviction.

And at the beginning of 2023, three United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed their concern on the scandal of espionage against pro-independence Catalan leaders and activists, and demanded an explanation from Spain. They highlighted that the victims of the espionage did not engage in violent activities and the scandal threatened  the rights to freedom of expression and of assembly.