Independent human rights experts working with the United Nations say Spain has violated the political rights of members of the Catalan government and parliament by stripping them of their posts ahead of any sentencing following the illegal independence vote in the area five years ago.
The Human Rights Committee, a group of 18 experts, released its findings on Wednesday following a complaint from four Catalan regional leaders who were prosecuted and convicted in Spain for their role in the October 2017 referendum and its tumultuous consequences.
Spain’s constitutional court declared the referendum invalid and the four officials – including former Catalonian vice-president Oriol Junqueras – and others were charged with the crime of rebellion and removed from their government posts.
Twelve people were convicted but only nine were sentenced to prison terms. The nine were pardoned in 2021 but remain banned from holding office.
The two pro-Catalan independence parties to which most of the 12 belonged celebrated the decision on Wednesday.
Spain “must end its repressive policies and cannot continue to use the law and criminal procedures to confront the peaceful claim of the right to self-determination”, declared the parties of the Republican Left of Catalonia and Together for Catalonia in a joint communiqué.
There was no immediate reaction from the Spanish government.
Spain says a self-determination referendum is a violation of the country’s constitution.
The committee, which works with the United Nations human rights office, ensures that the 173 countries that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including Spain, honor and comply with its requirements.