The European Language Equality Network (ELEN) has submitted its second report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Spain to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The ELEN Report finds that several public institutions continue to openly discriminate against Catalan, Galician, Basque which have co-official status, and Aragonese and Asturian which do not.

ELEN member organisations working for the protection and promotion of these languages gathered information on cases of co-official language discrimination for the report. While the cases involve different degrees of severity all of them illustrate the low level of respect for speakers of co-official (and Asturian and Aragonese) languages as well as being clear violations of the human rights of those citizens.

The inability to use co-official languages is widespread among civil servants and authorities in spite of the official status of these languages, when they have such status, as well as being in violation of several international treaties and conventions signed and ratified by Spain.

Regarding Catalan, ELEN member organisation Plataforma per la Llengua reported[1] 99 cases of serious un-addressed language discrimination in the Catalan-speaking territories in the period between 2015 and 2019. The cases reported are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the discrimination that actually occurs, as in many cases the victims of such illegal abuse never report it. 80% of cases of discrimination collected were perpetrated by civil servants of the State national authorities, while cases involving the regional or the local public authorities are less common.

43% of all the collected serious cases of linguistic discrimination have been undertaken by police officers who abused or fined citizens simply for addressing them in Catalan – an official language.

In the Report ELEN makes several recommendations to the Spanish authorities including:

  • Amending the legal framework with a view to making it clear that the criminal, civil and administrative judicial authorities in the Autonomous Communities can conduct the proceedings in co-official languages at the request of one party;
  • Implementing legal and step-up practical measures aimed at ensuring the adequate presence of the co-official languages in the State administration at the level of the Autonomous Communities;
  • Implementing measures to ensure the presence of co-official languages in public services, especially in healthcare services;
  • Introducing legislation that acts to eliminate legal and de-facto discrimination against non-Castilian languages spoken in Spain.

The UPR is a mechanism designed to monitor how States implement the UN Treaties they are subject to in terms of human rights. The aim of the ELEN Report is that both the Kingdom of Spain and international actors will address the concerns of ELEN members over the ongoing language discrimination against co-official language speakers by government officials in Spain. The UPR session on Spain will be held in Geneva in January 2020. (Eurolang 2019)

ELEN Report on Spain for the UN UPR 2020