Amnesty International accuses Spain of "restricting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly"

The report on the situation of human rights around the world highlights the police violence on 1 October

Spain "disproportionately restricted the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly" of people who supported the independence of Catalonia according to Amnesty International (AI) in its report on the state of the world’s human rights in 2017-2018, published this Thursday. The organization also criticizes the fact that "Law enforcement officials policing protests on 1 October in Catalonia used excessive force against peaceful protesters who were opposing a police operation. The police fired blank cartridges and rubber bullets, seriously injuring one person and causing him to lose the sight in one eye", in reference to the case of Roger Español. The report also criticises the fact that "Courts in Madrid and Vitoria in the Basque country prohibited two public assemblies aimed at supporting the referendum" and that "The municipality of Castelldefels in Catalonia adopted a blanket ban on the use of public spaces for assemblies aimed at supporting or protesting against the referendum".

Referring to the imprisonment of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, presidents of the ANC and Òmnium, AI criticizes the fact that they are accused of sedition, "a broadly defined offence". However, the organization does not consider Sànchez and Cuixart to be political prisoners, and makes no mention of their imprisonment. With regard to prosecutions relating to the "glorification of terrorism", Amnesty states that "In many instances, authorities pressed criminal charges against people who had expressed opinions that did not constitute incitement to a terrorism-related offence and fell within the permissible forms of expression under international human rights law". It cites as examples Cassandra Vera, given a prison sentence for her tweets about Carrero Blanco, and the case involving two puppeteers in Madrid.

The Alsasua youths

Amnesty believes that the Spanish judicial authorities continued to "use counterterrorism legislation disproportionately" in the case of the Alsasua youths jailed for their part in a bar fight with the Civil Guard. It also criticises the sanctions against human rights activists and journalists under the Law on Public Security, known as the "gag law", which "could constitute unlawful restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and information". The report mentions the case of the Catalunya Ràdio journalist Mercè Alcocer, who was fined for crossing an unmarked police line while trying to interview a witness as part of her investigation into the Pujol corruption case.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Amnesty also mentions Spain’s request for extradition from Switzerland of Nekane Txapartegi, accused of being a member of ETA and other terrorism-related offences. Txapartegi testified before the UN that she was subject to torture and ill-treatment during the five days she was held incommunicado at a police station in Madrid in 1999. According to AI, "her torture allegations were not thoroughly investigated", before warning that "the Constitutional Court declared admissible an appeal by the government against a Basque Parliament law on the recognition of and reparation for victims of human rights violations in the Basque Country".

Failure to relocate refugees

AI’s report also documents the Spanish government’s failure to comply with its refugee resettlement commitments. Madrid was to take charge of 15,888 asylum-seekers under the EU emergency relocation scheme: 1,328 were relocated by the end of the year, of which 592 were Syrian nationals.

Violence against women

Amnesty records the death of 48 women (and 8 children) at the hands of their partners or former partners last year in Spain.

Evictions

According to Amnesty International, "Thousands of people were forcibly evicted without adequate judicial safeguards or provision of alternative accommodation by the state. These included 26,767 rental evictions and 16,992 mortgage evictions. Public spending on housing continued to decrease, even though the demand for affordable social housing remained high". It goes on to state that in July, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights upheld a complaint against Spain for not having provided an evicted
family with alternative housing.

Impunity and historical memory

Amnesty criticizes the Spanish authorities for continuing "to close investigations into crimes under international law committed during the Civil War and the Franco regime. They argued that it would not be possible to investigate the crimes reported, such as enforced disappearances and torture, in view of, among other things, the Amnesty Act and the statute of limitations". AI also criticizes the fact that authorities continued to fail to take measures to locate and identify the remains of victims of enforced disappearances during the Civil War and the Franco regime. The report also mentions the refusal by the judiciary to investigate crimes under international law committed against Spanish citizens in Syria and Venezuela.