Oct 14, 2019

UNPO Condemns the Sentencing of Catalan Political and Civil Society Leaders

Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced two civil society leaders to nine years in prison and seven Catalan politicians to up to 13 years in prison over their role in organizing a referendum on Catalonian independence in 2017. 

Today’s conviction is a clear violation of the exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly, not only for the leaders but for the Catalan people as a whole. (Read our Joint submission to the UN OHCHR Universal Periodic Review, 35th session: Kingdom of Spain).

UNPO decries the judgement and sentencing of the Catalan self-determination trial and underlines that there is no evidence of violence in this case, as shown by the fact that the accused were cleared of charges of rebellion.

UNPO reminds that international observers of the trials have consistently found that the defendants had their rights to a fair trial violated. (Read more about the violation of civil rights here). Furthermore, the right to self-determination and freedom of expression and opinion guarantees a right to hold and seek independence through non-violent means. 

Therefore, UNPO calls for the Council of Europe and European Union to defend the right to freedom of expression and assembly by calling on the Spanish government to immediately release the defendants. We urge the EU and the Council of Europe to be consistent and clear in their defense of human rights and to recognize the right of all people to have a meaningful say in determining the political future of their communities. 


In 2006, a majority was obtained in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia against the Sentence of the Constitutional Court that invalidated part of the Statute of autonomy. The Spanish refusal to negotiate the Statute led the majority of the Catalan Parliament to propose a political plan of a sovereign nature.

Since 2013, various pronouncements of the Parliament of Catalonia and various participative processes have evidenced the institutional and citizenship will to exercise their right to decide, through a referendum, on the political future of Catalonia.

During this process, the Constitutional Court adopted a restrictive jurisprudence in order to prevent a referendum on Catalonia which clearly curbs the ability of the Catalan people to express their will and to have a say in governance.

Consequently, in autumn 2017, the Government of Catalonia decided to organize a referendum on whether Catalonia should become independent from Spain. Approximately 2.3 million Catalans voted on the referendum, but were harshly repressed by the police, whose violence led to many injuries. 

Today, after four months of deliberations, the Spanish Supreme Court has convicted nine Catalan leaders of sedition, disobedience and embezzlement over the "proved the existence of violence” during the referendum, including for two civil society leaders who, according the court, had a crucial role in mobilizing people for protest during the referendum.

Soon after the ruling, thousands of students and civil servants took the streets in the Catalan many Catalan cities including Barcelona.


Photo: Ernest CS [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons