Since May, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has published two reports calling for the release from custody of the pro-independence Catalan leaders who were put on trial in Spain's Supreme Court earlier this year: one on Junqueras, Sànchez and Cuixart, and the other on Romeva, Bassa, Forn and Rull. Spanish authorities have resolutely refused to entertain the suggestions. Now, the group's Chair-Rapporteur, José Antonio Guevera, has criticised the inaction from Spain's government and judiciary towards the "problematic" facts raised in the reports.
"I don't know if it would be an atypical response, because we're used to governments not liking what we say. We've seen disproportionate responses in countries which have serious human rights problems", Guevara said in an interview with TresPuntos Noticias, a Spanish language organisation based in Geneva.
He says he finds the "accusations being made" against his group to be disproportional. The Spanish government argued that Guevara and one of his colleagues have conflicts of interest and that the report contains "major errors"; the Supreme Court said that "the opinion isn't lacking in outlandish assertions, free of any logic and any possible fit in our legal system". Guevara today said they were "attacking the messenger and not directly dealing with the problematic situation identified in the two reports". Such attacks, he said, "are not very common in the context of the countries in the diplomatic world" but that "it's not something unusual the way they've responded".
As regards the accusations the reports had been leaked early to the Catalan media, Guevara said: "As a Working Group we deny the existence of leaks. It brings us no benefit to make the press aware of the document the day before". As for the accusations of a conflict of interest, namely that he is friends with Ben Emmerson, one of the lawyers representing the prisoners, Guevara said that "we have very clear rules that oblige use to act independently and objectively". He later made it even clearer: "My colleagues and I are not friends of Emmerson".