May 16, 2019

Catalonia: 150 Academics Sign Open Letter Denouncing Violation of Civil Rights

150 Academics from all over the world have signed an open letter in which they denounce the repression of civil rights in Catalonia by the Spanish government. Criticising the imprisonment and prosecution of Catalan activists, these academics argue that the response of the Spanish government to Catalan demands for independence have violated fundamental principles of international law. Accordingly, the open letter calls for the recovery of legal security, as well as for the freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration.


Below is an article published by The National:

Quoting the Council of Europe's Declaration on Higher Education and Democratic Culture: Citizenship, Human Rights and Civic Responsibility (Strasbourg 2006):

“We affirm our commitment to democratic principles and practice. We accept our responsibility to safeguard democracy, and promote a democratic culture, by supporting and advancing within higher education, as well as society at large, the principles of:

  • Democratic and accountable structures, processes and practice
  • Active democratic citizenship Human rights, mutual respect and social justice
  • Environmental and societal sustainability
  • Dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts,”

We, the academic community, consider that the constant violation of civil rights in Catalonia is threatening the foundations of democracy in this country. The signs of democratic involution - such as the violence exerted on October 1 against people waiting to vote - are becoming increasingly evident. Successive acts by Spain’s judiciary and government, such as the imprisonment and prosecution of social activists and members of the democratically elected Catalan Government and Parliament, have thrown into crisis the separation of powers, which is one of the pillars on which the rule of law is based.

Democracy is based on the recognition and defence of inalienable basic rights, including the right to dissent publicly. Judicialization of politics, violence and repression have been the response from the Spanish State to the demands of the Catalan people, instead of the dialogue necessary for any negotiation. We have thus witnessed a number of acts perpetrated by the Spanish institutional powers that do not befit the rule of law of a democratic State and are in breach of fundamental principles of international law.

Given the seriousness of this situation, silence on the part of the academic community is not an option. For these reasons, we declare that:

  • Recovery of legal security is indispensable, and it is unacceptable that decisions of public authorities be arbitrary.
  • It is essential that the fundamental rights of expression, assembly, demonstration and political participation be respected.
  • Safeguarding rights and liberties is possible only by recovering democratic practices and solving political problems politically.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons