Top UN Human Rights body urges Spain to investigate Catalangate

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights entreats the Spanish state to put an end to the infringement of fundamental rights of the independence movement

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urges the Spanish state to put an end to the violation of fundamental rights of pro-independence leaders and activists. The Office is the highest institution within the United Nations entrusted with the defence of Human Rights.

The High Commissioner’s press release on Wednesday calls Spain to “conduct a full, fair, and effective investigation” into the use of Pegasus and Candiru spyware against the pro-independence movement, as well as to “publish the findings and stop any unlawful interference into the fundamental rights of the Catalan minority activists.”

The High Commissioner thus calls for compliance with the report that three United Nations rapporteurs released in January, in which they recognised the violations of fundamental rights through the spying on Catalan independence leaders and activists by means of Pegasus.

In the press release, the Office of the High Commissioner states the experts are “deeply concerned” by the unlawful use of Pegasus against 65 pro-independence leaders. They point out that it is “a very troubling interference into the human rights of Catalan leaders and other minority activists to freely hold and express their views, exchange information and ideas, assemble peacefully,” and that “they are entitled to a private life, the privacy of correspondence and to be treated equally before the law.”

As for the perpetrators of the espionage, the rapporteurs mention the proprietor of Pegasus, Israeli NSO Group, recalling that the software is only sold to governments, and that according to some reports, the Spanish National Intelligence Center “would be one of NSO Group’s customers.”

The press release also refers to the letter of October, 2022 in which the experts contacted the Spanish government asking for information about the case. The Spanish executive responded informing that investigations were ongoing. The experts state in the press release that they look forward to the outcome of the investigations.

Finally, the experts express their concern regarding the extensive, long-term use of the spyware, especially against leaders of peaceful minorities. Indeed, the release underlines that “minorities are specifically protected” and warns that “a targeted spying programme against a minority group may constitute a serious violation” of human rights.

That is why the rapporteurs urge Spain to join a global moratorium on the sale of surveillance technology “until robust regulations are in place that guarantee its use in compliance with international human rights standards.” They added that such a moratorium “was also joined by then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.”

An unprecedented statement

Through this press release, the High Commissioner reinforces the communication by the three United Nations rapporteurs released in January. For Esquerra, this insistence by the High Commissioner on a resolution signed by rapporteurs is unprecedented and corroborates the serious violation of rights that Catalagate entails.

These pronouncements respond to a press release to the United Nations made in Geneva by the Secretary General of Esquerra Republicana, Marta Rovira, on behalf of Esquerra’s victims and in coordination with the rest of the organisations affected by Catalangate.

“The High Commissioner stresses, underscores and demands that the letter by the rapporteurs who responded to our communication to the United Nations be complied with. It is unprecedented for the High Commissioner to insist that the findings of the rapporteurs be complied with, as that is not usually the case,” underlined Ms Rovira.

See the United Nations press release: