Catalonia warns of civil disobedience as Madrid readies direct rule

Catalan regional vice president and chief of Economy and Finance Oriol Junqueras and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont attend a demonstration in Barcelona on October 21, 2017. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Catalonia warns of civil disobedience as Madrid readies direct rule

MADRID: Catalonia said on Monday it was confident all officials including police would defy attempts by Madrid to enforce direct rule on the region, in an escalating dispute that has raised fears of unrest among Spain’s European allies.
The Spanish government has invoked special constitutional powers to fire the regional government and force a new election to counter an independence drive that has rattled the economy. A vote in the Senate to implement direct rule is due on Friday.
But the leaders of the secessionist campaign said a disputed referendum on Oct. 1 gave them the mandate to claim independence from the rest of Spain.
“It’s not that we will refuse (orders). It is not a personal decision. It is a seven million-person decision,” Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief Raul Romeva told BBC radio.
Romeva was asked whether he believed all institutions, including the police, would follow orders from Catalan institutions rather than from the Spanish government.
“And from that perspective, I have no doubt that all civil servants in Catalonia will keep following the instructions provided by the elected and legitimate institutions that we have right now in place (in Catalonia),” he said.
Catalan authorities said about 90 percent of those who took part in the referendum on Oct. 1 voted for independence. But only 43 percent of the electorate and 1 in 3 Catalans participated, with most opponents of secession staying at home.
The Catalan crisis has raised fears among European countries that it could spill over to the rest of the continent.
From Scotland to Flanders and Lombardy, the 2007-09 financial crisis, unemployment and migration have allowed anti-EU and populist parties to feed off discontent with political elites and reopen regional divisions.
Two wealthy regions of northern Italy voted overwhelmingly on Sunday for greater autonomy.
At a European summit last week, leaders sought to minimize Spain’s crisis with Catalonia and described the secession bid as a domestic issue.
“NO DIVINE AUTHORITY“
Civil disobedience was also backed by far-left party CUP, a key support for Catalonia’s pro-independence minority government in the regional parliament, which called Madrid’s actions an aggression against all Catalans.
“An aggression which will be met with massive civil disobedience,” the CUP said in a statement.
Several hundred Catalan municipalities said they were against direct rule from Madrid and asked the Catalan parliament to vote on a motion rejecting it.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has called the Catalan parliament to meet this week to agree on a response to Madrid, something many observers said could pave the way for a formal declaration of independence.
The assembly will meet on Thursday to agree a response to direct rule.
Several influential Catalan newspapers called on Puidgemont on Sunday to resolve the crisis by calling a snap election before direct rule becomes effective. However, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull said this was not an option.
It is not clear whether a vote in the region would help resolve the crisis.
An opinion poll published by the El Periodico newspaper on Sunday showed a snap election would probably have results similar to the last ballot, in 2015, when a coalition of pro-independence parties formed a minority government.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister said Puigdemont would be out of a job once direct rule was enforced and Madrid would install its own representative. The Spanish government has said it would call a regional election within six months.
“They are president of the regional government and senior figures in that government because of the constitution,” said Soraya Saenz de Santamaria during a radio interview.
“They are not entrusted with that role by any divine authority,” she also said.


Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

Updated 20 min 16 sec ago
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Nobel peace prize shines light on rape in conflict

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”
  • The laureates have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it

OSLO: Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, a Daesh sex slave survivor, will be presented with the Nobel Peace Prize Monday, as they challenge the world to combat rape as a weapon of war.
Mukwege, dubbed “Doctor Miracle” for his work helping victims of sexual violence, and Murad, who has turned her experience into powerful advocacy for her Yazidi people, will receive the prize at a ceremony in Oslo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee in October said the prize was for “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
The laureates, who have dedicated their award to rape victims across the world, have said they hope the Nobel will raise awareness of sexual violence and make it harder for the world to ignore it.
“We cannot say that we didn’t act because we didn’t know. Now everyone knows. And I think now the international community has a responsibility to act,” Mukwege told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.
The surgeon has spent 20 years treating the wounds and emotional trauma inflicted on women in the DR Congo’s war-torn east.
“What we see during armed conflicts is that women’s bodies become battlefields and this cannot be acceptable,” he said.
Fellow laureate Murad has become a tireless campaigner for the rights of Yazidis since surviving the horrors of captivity under the Daesh group in Iraq and Syria where they targeted her Kurdish-speaking community.
Captured in 2014, she suffered forced marriage, beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.
She said the Nobel was “a sign” for the thousands of women still held by militants.
“This prize, one prize cannot remove all the violence and all the attacks on pregnant women, on children, on women and give them justice,” Murad said on Sunday.
But she said she hoped it would “open doors so that we can approach more governments,” to bring the perpetrators to court and “so that we can find a solution and actually stop what is happening.”

The co-laureates have come to represent the struggle against a global scourge that goes well beyond any single conflict.
“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions,” said Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, when the award was announced in October.
Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of victims — women, children and even babies just a few months old — at Panzi hospital which he founded in 1999 in DR Congo’s South Kivu.
Murad, now UN ambassador for victims of human trafficking, was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who were abducted, raped and brutalized by militants during their assault in 2014.
Older women and men faced summary execution during the Daesh assault, which the United Nations has described as a possible genocide. Murad’s mother and six of her brothers were killed.
A UN team authorized to investigate the massacre of the Yazidi minority is due to finally start fieldwork in Iraq next year.
Murad said “steps toward justice” had given her hope.
But she stressed that “not a single Daesh terrorist” has appeared in court, adding “this injustice will continue in this world if it is not dealt with now.”
The Nobel Peace Prize — a gold medal, diploma and nine million Swedish Krona (880,000 euros, $1 million) — will be officially presented in a ceremony at Oslo City Hall at 1200 GMT.