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Emails and Letters to the UN for Catalonia

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NY Coalition for Human Rights in Catalonia

New York City, November, 2017

His Excellency
Mr. António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres
Secretary General of the United Nations

His Excellency
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Your Excellencies:

We are a group of New York-based Catalan and Spanish citizens and organizations, and concerned U.S. and international citizens, who have observed shifts in the Spanish government´s political behavior which have led to unthinkable repression. We want to express our deepest concern regarding the violations of fundamental Human Rights that have recently taken place in Spain, as well as the extreme measures to suspend the Catalan autonomy that have been announced by the Spanish government.

United Nations experts, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, among others, have publicly denounced the behavior of Spanish authorities before and after the referendum. We are extremely concerned, as civil society organizations in Catalonia have documented and publicly denounced the escalation of the level of repression. The announcement on October 21st of the application of Article 155 and suspension of the powers of the Catalan government confirms this tendency and magnifies our concern.

During and after the referendum, the Spanish Government violated fundamental human rights: the rights to freedom of expression, and to peaceful assembly, guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Arts. 19 and 21), and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Arts. 10 and 11), to which Spain is a State Party.

These violations, which took place before the referendum, took the following form: intervention in the Catalan treasury; the attempt to take control of the Catalan police force, the sending of ten thousand Spanish police to intimidate the population and try to stop the referendum; accusation of 700 mayors who expressed their intention to support the referendum of “disobedience, prevarication, and misappropriation,” and the arrest of 12; raiding of .cat, a top-level domain registry and censorship of more than 140 websites.

On September 20th, the Spanish Civil Guard invaded the autonomous Catalan government departments of Economy; Foreign Affairs, Governance, and Social Affairs; as well as the Tributary Agency; and the Center for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Catalan citizens reacted to this affront through repeated and multitudinous acts of non-violent civil disobedience in support of their right to vote. Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, presidents respectively of the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya and Òmnium Cultural, two of the most prominent civil society organizations in Catalonia, helped organize peaceful protest demonstrations on this occasion. For exercising their right to protest and assembly, they were arrested on October 16th; at the date of writing they have been in prison for 9 days.

On October 1st, the day of the referendum, thousands of armed national police – Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and National Police Corps (Cuerpo Nacional de Policia), sent to Catalonia to interfere with the vote, engaged in excessive use of force. This physical and verbal abuse included the use of batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against Catalan citizens who were assembled peacefully in and around polling stations while trying to vote. These disproportionate police actions caused over 991 documented injuries, including acts of sexual aggression.

Despite all these disheartening events, the Catalan government has not lost hope of negotiating with the Spanish government and has continued to seek a dialogue. Nevertheless, in response, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has threatened to apply Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would suppress Catalan autonomy, intervene in the Catalan public TV and radio as well as the autonomous education system, take control of the autonomous police–three competencies set down in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy–and arrest the Catalan President and remove his cabinet.

Catalan and Spanish citizens residing in New York, and U.S. and international supporters, consider that the Constitutional Court’s decision of October 17 declaring the Catalan referendum unconstitutional violates the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Articles 18, 19 and 20). It also offends the spirit of the Universal Right to Self-determination, a principle enshrined in the UN Charter.

We therefore ask you, as Secretary General of the United Nations and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to exercise your good offices and mediate between the Government of Spain and the Catalan Government on the right to self-determination of the Catalan people, and also to call on the Spanish Government to fully comply with its obligations under International Human Rights Law to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all its citizens without discrimination.

Yours sincerely,

[Names of Signatures}.
And Mary Ann Newman, Clàudia Prat, Spokespersons NY Coalition For Human Rights in Catalonia.

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