Catalonia to launch commission on ‘violation of fundamental rights’ over referendum violence
The referendum, held on Sunday, was ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court, and the central government dispatched thousands of extra police officers to Catalonia to impede the vote. Millions turned up to cast their ballots nevertheless, and violence broke out after police and Civil Guards cracked down on people attempting to vote.
The violence during Sunday’s referendum in Catalonia was “the worst in 40 years” the region’s president Carles Puigdemont said at a press conference on Monday.
“The day of gratuitous violence seen yesterday cannot be repeated nor go unpunished,” he stated.
The president announced that 893 people had been injured and 73 formal complaints filed against the Spanish police.
“The government of Catalonia will create a special commission on the violations of fundamental rights that were seen in Catalonia,” he declared. This commission would comprise a team of legal experts and professionals appointed by the government.
Puigdemont claimed he had no contact with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, but noted that Rajoy should come out and say whether he is in favor of mediation talks overseen by the European Union.
“It is clear that things cannot go on like this: mediation cannot be renounced just as dialogue was before; we do not see a more effective way than sitting and talking,” said the regional president.
The Catalan leader demanded the withdrawal of the National Police and Civil Guard from the territory of Catalonia, and said that his government will be taking steps to carry out their mandate for independence in the next few days, following the victory of the ‘yes’ vote.
Puigdemont also expressed his disappointment that Sunday’s vote, which he sees as being a European rather than purely Spanish issue, has been seemingly ignored by the European Union. The EU has reacted belatedly to the skirmishes on Sunday, declaring that “violence can never be an instrument in politics.”
Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, while not a supporter of the independence movement, has echoed the president's calls for a thorough examination and explanation of what happened on Sunday, accusing police officers of carrying out not only beatings but sexual assaults. Colau has also called on Prime Minister Rajoy to resign, arguing that the EU should take over the talks.
Meanwhile students have been holding a silent protest against the brutality that took place on Sunday at the Plaza de Cataluna, the central square in Barcelona, while other protesters gathered outside the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya which houses the Catalan government.
A general strike has been called in Catalonia on Tuesday as two of Spain’s biggest unions, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), a powerful pro-independence civil association, and 41 other groups have called on their supporters to protest against "the grave violation of rights and freedoms." As a major hub of the Spanish economy, the strike could have significant ramifications across the whole country.