The Catalan president has called for international help in tackling its independence dispute with Spain, saying 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,” Carles Puigdemont said on Monday. “It cannot look the other way any longer.”
After the Catalan referendum: what happens next?
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 on Monday, it said: “Violence can never be an instrument in politics. We trust the leadership of 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.”
A statement from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he had backed the “constitutional unity of Spain” in a telephone call with Rajoy.
The police operation was also criticised by the UN high commissioner for human rights, 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,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Monday. “Police responses must at all times be proportionate and necessary.”
Hussein asked Spain to immediately accept requests for UN human rights monitors to visit the country.
Much of Catalonia was brought to a standstill for ten minutes at midday on Monday in protest at the police violence.
Squares were occupied and roads blocked as crowds chanted “Independence!”. The Barcelona metro stopped briefly and the Plaça Sant Jaume, the seat of both the Barcelona city council and the Catalan government, was packed with protesters.
Jordi Cuixart, the leader of the pro-independence group Òmnium Cultural, told the crowd that the general strike called for Tuesday “is the best response the Catalan people can make to the attacks on us yesterday and in recent weeks”.
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. On Sunday night, Puigdemont had said the referendum results would be put before the regional parliament “where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum”.