Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and five other separatist leaders from the region have appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, denouncing what they call the “suspension” of their political rights by Spanish authorities.
Speaking to journalists in the Swiss city on Thursday, Puigdemont said that the joint appeal to the rights body aimed to denounce the “serious violation of rights and freedoms in Spain, something unacceptable in the framework of European Union law”.
Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Turull are all members of Catalonia’s parliament, but were charged and suspended from taking office by the Spanish Supreme Court for their role in organizing an October 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia in northeast Spain.
“Six people, democratically-elected and not yet convicted – five of whom have been detained for over a year – cannot exercise their rights,” said Puigdemont.
Having been accused of rebellion and sedition by Spanish authorities after the unauthorized referendum, Puigdemont has since lived in Belgium. An international arrest warrant against him was withdrawn last July.
Puigdemont and Sanchez, president of the independent association ANC, had already filed a separate complaint to the same UN rights body in March 2018 to denounce their "impossibility of running for president of the Generalitat” [the Catalan government]. The UN committee has yet to take any decision on the complaints.
It’s not the first time the emblematic Catalan figure has visited Geneva; an international human rights film festival hosted him for a debate on self-determination in March, a visit from which cantonal authorities distanced themselves.
Several other ‘wanted’ separatists, including Anna Gabriel and Marta Rovira, have sought exile in Switzerland following their condemnation in Spain.
Thursday’s action in Geneva comes as the Catalan separatist row shows no signs of ending. This week, four imprisoned leaders of the movement ended an almost three-week hunger strike, while Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has chosen to hold this Friday’s cabinet meeting in Barcelona – a deliberate “provocation”, for some Catalan supporters.