From the UN, a “yes” to the Right to Self-Determination of the Catalan People. An article by Aureli Argemí

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The UN acknowledges the right to self-determination of all countries. Not only as a principle and a basic right, but also as a right to be applied. It is made explicit in treaties which have been presented to member states so that they may sign and ratify them. The Spanish State has already done so. However, this same state has already expressed its opposition to the possibility that the Catalan people exert their right to self-determination. To justify its opposition, it gives a series of arguments that try to limit the applicability of this right, stating the opposite to what is laid down in the UN treaties on underlining that all countries, without exception, are the subject of this right. The Spanish State denies, for exemple, that the Catalan people are subject to this right, because it does not regard it to be a real country, or wants to make us believe that it only refers to countries that were undergoing a process of decolonization.

The Catalan Parliament, in answer to popular demand, has resolved that the Catalan people have not abdicated from their right to self-determination, while it awaits the chance to exert it some day. In the last few years, the Catalan Parliament does not cease to repeat that the Catalan people, which is represents, want to exert this right. The Spanish government does not budge from its full opposition.

Catalan civil society is busy organising initiatives to make UN unblock this situation. Among the initiatives which have had inicial success is one led by the Organization Centre Català de Negocis. It has sent a demand to UN and has received a written answer by way of its High Commission for Civil Rights, signed by Alfred de Zayas, the Cuban expert appointed by that very body to deal with all questions associated with self-determination. In his letter, formally addressed to the Spanish ambassador before the UN, after remembering that “many conflicts since 1945 are related to instances where self-determination are refused”  in certain countries, Zayas also says:  «The right to self-determination is held as sacred in the first article of the International Agreement on civil and political rights and in the International Agreement of economic, social and cultural rights. As such, this right is particularly important because it allows individuals and countries alike to enjoy each one of the rights that are contained in international treaties  on human rights. In this sense, I shall give all my support to all efforts of State authorities to dialogue with those who aspire to self-determination, and to guarantee the benefit of human rights in Catalonia in particular and Spain in general. However I am worried that the present political climate in Spain does not seem conducive to a solution for the debate in course. On these questions, I would again like to offer myself fo discuss the present situation in the context of the obligations Spain has as regards International law and civil rights”. (The letter bears the date 30 January but has not been made public until now).

There is no evidence that the Spanish government has answered this letter, but is has given rise to a situation in which the Cercle Català de Negocis and other entities call the Catalan government to present a demand for protection measures of UN’s Human Rights Council.

Aureli Argemí

Emeritus President of CIEMEN

President of Plataforma pel Dret de Decidir (PDD)