United Nations expert urges Spain not to pursue criminal charges of rebellion against political figures in Catalonia
GENEVA (6 April 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, urged Spanish authorities to refrain from pursuing the criminal charge of rebellion against political figures and protesters in Catalonia that carries a jail sentence of up to 30 years.
“Prosecutions for ‘rebellion’ that could lead to lengthy jail sentences raise serious risks of deterring wholly legitimate speech, even if it is controversial and discomfiting,” said Kaye. “Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of every free and democratic society, and it will remain so long after the current political controversies subside.”
Following a referendum last October deemed void and unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, Spanish authorities arrested then-members of the Catalan Government and leaders of civil society organisations and charged them with rebellion, among other charges. Carles Puigdemont, former president of Catalonia, was among those charged; on request from Spain, he was arrested in Germany and may face extradition.
“I am concerned that charges of rebellion for acts that do not involve violence or incitement to violence may interfere with rights of public protest and dissent,” the Special Rapporteur said. “International human rights law cautions that, especially in situations involving political dissent, restrictions should only be imposed when they are strictly necessary and proportionate to protect the State’s interests.
“I am hopeful that Spain will deploy its democratic institutions to foster space for debate, and find creative tools of dialogue and reconciliation to deal with the current political situation,” Kaye added.
David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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