HATE speech against Catalans is spreading in Spain as pro-independence voices are portrayed as "terrorists, supremacists, racists or traitors", a UN meeting has been told.

In a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, Carles Fité of the grassroots Assemblea Nacional Catalana (Catalan National Assembly) accused Spanish media of working to dehumanise those backing constitutional change.

It is just over three years since Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and called snap elections after MPs voted to declare independence.

That came after the referendum there resulted in a Yes vote.

Scenes from voting day, when heavily armed police turned on members of the public on the streets and at polling stations, sent shockwaves around the world.

The Assemblea is committed to winning independence "in a completely peaceful and democratic way".

In his speech, Fité said: "The use of hate speech against Catalan population is spreading in Spain". 

Accusing Spanish authorities of launching a "systematic campaign of repression against the Catalan movement for self-determination" through the "persecution" of activists and representatives and the imprisonment of politicians, he went on: "Spanish media have been often portraying Catalans negatively, using adjectives such as terrorists, supremacists, racists or traitors. Dehumanisation paved the way for more violent statements, especially in social media."

The comments come six months after UN rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, presented a report highlighting a rise in hate speech, vilification, vandalism, physical threats and even assaults against members of the Catalan minority, as well as allegations that these complaints are not investigated by authorities, increasing Spanish nationalist intolerance of the Catalan minority.

Appearing via video link, Fité told the meeting the rhetoric had been linked to "cases of harrasment and violence by far-right Spanish supporters, discrimination to Catalan speakers by public officials or the ban on symbols supporting Catalan political prisoners".

He went on: "The Catalan National Assembly calls on the Human Rights Council to request Spain to act effectively and tackle hate speech against the Catalan minority, according to international human rights law."

During the Forum, Indira Boutier of Aix Global Justice said there has been a "worrying increase in hate speech against national minority Catalan, and violations of international and European legislation by the Spanish authorities", adding: "The Spanish legal framework is open to an authoritarian interpretation of the law, accompanied by a very conservative judiciary, which the state uses as a tool to maintain territorial integrity."