Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Catalonia calls for international help on dispute

The Guardian, BARCELONA, Spain

Independence supporters march during a demonstration in downtown Barcelona, Spain, yesterday.

Photo: AP

Calling for international help in tackling its independence dispute with Spain, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont yesterday said that Europe cannot continue to ignore the issue after almost 900 people were injured during the police crackdown on the referendum.

“The European Commission must encourage international mediation,” Puigdemont said. “It cannot look the other way any longer.”

At least 844 people and 33 officers were reported to have been hurt on Sunday after riot police stormed polling stations, dragging out voters and firing rubber bullets into crowds.

The European Commission has so far declined to intervene in what it has described as an internal Spanish matter and has urged both sides to “move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue.”

In a statement released earlier yesterday, it said: “Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of [Spanish] Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.”

The police operation was also criticized by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who said he had been “very disturbed” by the violence in Catalonia.

“With hundreds of people reported injured, I urge the Spanish authorities to ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence,” al-Hussein said.

He asked Spain to immediately accept requests for UN human rights monitors to visit the country.

Puigdemont urged the Spanish government to recall the national police and Guardia Civil officers who had been tasked with preventing the referendum.

He also announced that his government would create a commission to examine the human rights violations committed on Friday.

However, he did not, as many had expected, say that he would declare Catalan independence imminently, as previously promised.

A spokesman for the Catalan government said 2.26 million Catalans — 43 percent of the region’s 5.3 million eligible voters — had taken part in the referendum.

The Catalan government had not set a minimum threshold for turnout in the election, arguing the vote would be binding regardless of the level of participation.

In Taiwan, the New Power Party issued a statement saluting Catalans for voting in the independence referendum, in spite of the Spanish government’s use of violence to interfere with the vote.

The party added that while the Taiwanese public congratulates Catalonia on the referendum’s result, the Legislative Yuan should prioritize passage of amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法).

Additional reporting by staff writer

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