(OHCHR) 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.
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