Spain violated the political rights of former Catalan leaders in connection with the 2017 secession attempt, an independent UN rights committee has found.
The report states that Madrid should not have suspended the officials from office and stripped them of their duties before convicting them.
The former vice-president of the Catalan regional government Oriol Junqueras, and three former regional ministers, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull, were all imprisoned for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum.
Spain’s constitutional court ruled that the referendum was invalid, and the four were initially found guilty of "rebellion". In October 2019, the charges were downgraded to "sedition".
The decision to charge them with rebellion and suspend them from public office before any conviction was "not based on reasonable and objective grounds provided for by the law," the UN committee found.
The charge of "rebellion" required a "violent uprising against the constitutional order," it added, noting that the four leaders had urged Catalonia to "remain strictly peaceful".
"The decision to suspend elected officials must be based on clear and predictable laws that establish reasonable and objective grounds for restricting political rights".
The group of 18 experts released its findings on Wednesday after a complaint was filed by Catalonia regional leaders in 2018.
Nine of the 12 total people who were convicted over the failed independence push received jail sentences. They were pardoned in 2021 but are still barred from holding office.
The UN committee's decision has been welcomed by twopro-Catalan independence parties, the Republican Left and “Together For Catalonia”.
Spain “must cease its repressive policies and cannot continue using the law and penal processes to confront the peaceful demand for the right to self-determination,” a joint statement read.
The former President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, wrote on Twitter that the UN's findings were a "slap in the face" for Spain.
"An EU member state is violating political rights and this is a real threat to democracy in Europe," he said.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium in 2017 to avoid prosecution for his role in the 2017 secession attempt.