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The UN Special Rapporteur for National Minorities calls on Spain to respect the language rights of Catalan speakers

Plataforma per la Llengua demands that the Spanish government comply with its international commitments after Fernand de Varennes warned of the situation of human rights violations suffered by minorities in Spain

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on National Minorities (UN), Mr. Fernand de Varennes, published his report on his analysis of the situation of minorities in the Spanish State in 2019.

The Catalan NGO considers the report of the UN Rapporteur to be a good picture of Spain because it clearly shows that minority discrimination is a structural problem. In this regard, Plataforma per la Llengua demands that the state recognizes the Catalan-speaking community as a minority, a fact that the Spanish Government has denied despite being explicitly requested to do so by the UN Rapporteur.

Were such a recognition to become effective, this would entail a duty for Spain to design a specific legal framework for the prevention of language discrimination against the Catalan-speaking linguistic community. Such a commitment is established in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities -an international treaty ratified by Spain- which the State denies to apply to non-Castilian language communities on the grounds that they are not minorities.

The content of the report

Plataforma per la Llengua has carried out an analysis of the report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues on his visit to Spain, from which the following observations are made:

  • Mr. De Varennes points out that the Spanish does not sufficiently protect the languages minority languages in the regulations against discrimination. This omission would be contrary to the obligations contracted by Spain in international treaties by which this feature is fundamental -mainly the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities- and leaves the inquiry on the breach of language rights to arbitrary and partial criteria of judges and state officials; on the other hand, these are among the first perpetrators when it comes to language discrimination acts against citizens for language-motivated reasons.
  • The rapporteur also focuses on the education system in the region of Catalonia, where there has been an increase in court rulings highlighting the constitutional superiority of the Castilian language, a fact that constrains the teaching of regional official languages. The UN envoy has received information claiming that without the use of Catalan as the working language of the Catalan school system a relevant number of children would not be able to learn Catalan properly. In fact, Mr. De Varennes lauds the strength of a non-segregated language model that assures that children in Catalonia learn both Catalan and Castilian. In this regards, the Un Rapporteur recommends the Spanish authorities to modify the measures that aim to reduce the proportion of Catalan teaching in public schools.
  • With regard to the enforcement of language rights by police forces, Mr. De Varennes remains concerned that minorities in general distrust the police and the judiciary, and denounce cases of discrimination, ill-treatment and harassment that go unpunished. The UN Rapporteur explains that different reports point to an increase in hate speech, demonization, physical threats and even aggression against members of the Catalan-speaking minority and detects a growing climate of intolerance and exacerbated nationalism against Catalan speakers and other minorities. A special worrying fact for Mr. De Varennes is that statements of political leaders are sometimes at the origin of this phenomenon. In order to eradicate this climate of hatred, the UN Rapporteur urges state authorities to monitor hate speech on the Internet more effectively as the most important measure to address this issue in the short term.

* according to the UN an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority is "any group of people who constitute less than half of the population of the total territory of a state, whose members share characteristics of culture, religion or language, or a combination of more than one of these elements ".


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