Statement of the FIDH President, Dimitris Christopoulos on the recent developments in Catalonia

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Spain faces a very serious constitutional and state crisis, maybe the worst ever since the failed 1981 coup d’état.

The truth is that this crisis could have been avoided if it had been responsibly dealt with. Yet, the response of the Spanish Prime Minister to a popular request for a referendum on October 1st in Catalonia has only accelerated and deepened this crisis.

Although responsibilities on both sides have still to be verified, we are particularly concerned by footage suggesting that the police has made excessive and disproportionate use of force against protesters during clashes between it and demonstrators around the referendum.

Police brutality and repression is never the way to handle a crisis, as they can only escalate tension and lead to uncontrolled political violence. Then, it becomes a loose-loose situation for Spain, Catalonia and Europe.

We call on both Spanish and Catalonian authorities to contribute to ease tensions and facilitate a peaceful settlement of the current situation. Respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic dialogue is the only way to go forward. Although law enforcement authorities can resort to the use of force under certain circumstances, this can be used only when other means remain ineffective, and even then it must be exercised with restraint, be proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and to the aim it intends to achieve. Governments must ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force by law enforcement officials is duly investigated and prosecuted and that those responsible are held to account.

There is an imperative need for a compromise between Madrid and Barcelona. While we can reasonably ask ourselves "who can deliver this compromise today?", only such a compromise can contribute to solving this crisis in time before it goes beyond democratic control.

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