Assemblea denounces human rights abuses against the Catalan people at the United Nations European Forum on national minorities

The Catalan National Assembly (Assemblea) has taken part in the United Nations European Regional Forum on conflict prevention and the protection of the human rights of minorities on the 12 and 13 October to denounce the human rights abuses against the Catalan national minority committed by Spanish authorities.

On the 12th and 13th of October, the United Nations European Regional Forum brought together some 150 representatives from state, UN and regional organizations, as well as civil society and minority groups. This annual meeting exists to provide a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on challenges, threats, and issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, as well as thematic contributions and expertise to the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes.

In this regard, Assemblea representatives intervened all four sessions of the forum to denounce the human rights violations being meted out against the Catalan national minority by the Spanish authorities. Bàrbara Roviró, a member of Assemblea’s National Board and its International Committee’s Coordinator, took part in the debate in the first session titled “Substantive root causes of contemporary conflicts involving minorities”, where she denounced that such Catalans rights were being abused by the Spanish authorities: “Over 3300 peaceful Catalan activists and representatives have been politically persecuted by the Spanish authorities, creating a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression, assembly, and the right to political participation”.

Assemblea Board Member Carles Fité covered the second session, “Normative framework: the human rights of minorities and conflict prevention”, in which he denounced the politically motivated use of the Spanish penal code to persecute the Catalan minority: “Spanish courts have actively intervened in Catalan parliamentary activity, abolishing laws and annulling resolutions on social, economic, civil and political rights passed by the Catalan chamber, based on an extremely restrictive interpretation of the Spanish Constitution, thus disenfranchising the political representation of national minorities”.

The conferences resumed on the second day with a session focusing on “Obstacles to implementing the rights of minorities and early effective conflict prevention”. Ms. Roviró intervened again, alerting to the perils of a rogue #EU member state: “In 2019, Turkey’s government justified Kurdish elected officials’ removal and prosecution using Spain’s repressive measures against elected Basque and Catalan elected officials, acknowledging that in all these cases there was no use of violence”.

Finally, Assemblea Board Member Eva Pruneda took the floor during the last session: “Ways forward towards addressing gaps in human rights mechanisms to protect minorities and prevent conflicts”, in which she denounced the case of former Assemblea President and Catalan Parliament Speaker, Carme Forcadell, who was sentenced to an 11½-year prison sentence, and spent 3½ years in prison for having allowed a debate on independence in the Catalan chamber. Ms. Pruneda also stated that “The violation of her parliamentary immunity, as well as the right to free speech of Catalan parliamentarians, completely undermines the legitimate representation and participation of Catalan civil society in the legislative process”, and insisted that “This case shows how Western States cannot be exempt from scrutiny and effective monitoring mechanisms, which need to be implemented by UN to give proper response”.

In the framework of the forum, the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, highlighted the lack of recognition by the Spanish government of existing national minorities in Spain -including Catalonia-, a fact that can lead to discrimination. and violations of their rights.

The resulting debates will be studied and inform the work and recommendations of the 14th session of the global UN Forum on Minority Issues taking place in Geneva in December 2021, also on the theme of “Conflict Prevention and the Protection of the Human Rights of Minorities”.

Assemblea has been present at several United Nations meetings concerning minorities and human rights to denounce rights violations against Catalans, as well as key events such as the UN Universal Periodic Review to Spain (2020), and its representatives have carried out several oral statements as well as submitting  written statements to denounce violations of rights by Spanish institutions against the Catalan minority. (November 2020, June 2018).