Constitutional Court backs hot returns in Ceuta and Melilla

Judges reject ban on recording police, considering it prior restraint

The Constitutional Court has upheld almost the entirety of the public safety law, the so-called ley mordaza ("gag law"), including the hot returns of immigrants and the penalties for riots at rallies known as Rodea el Congreso. This closes the controversy that has lasted for the last few years at the political and social level over a law that the Mariano Rajoy government approved in 2015 and which has remained in force despite several frustrated attempts to repeal or modify it in the courts.

After several months dealing with the matter, the judges affirm that the expulsion at the border of migrants who cross in Ceuta and Melilla fits in with the doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights, which has already ruled in favor of the Spanish state in the case of two immigrants from Mali and the Ivory Coast who were expelled to Morocco after having entered without authorisation in Melilla in August 2014. The support for the expeditious measure is total, regardless of whether entry is made alone or accompanied or whether or not there has been use of violence by the migrant.

The only thing that the Constitutional Law clarifies is that expulsions must be carried out in accordance with the international obligations adopted by Spain: individually - now most of them are collective - and with full judicial control. It also said that special attention must be paid to the most vulnerable people, such as minors, pregnant women and the elderly.

The reaction of NGOs

According to humanitarian NGOs, on the other hand, hot-air expulsions violated migrants' rights because they were left without legal guarantees to be able to explain why they were migrating and were therefore denied the right to apply for asylum, if they met the requirements laid down by law, or to appeal against expulsion.

The sentence, details of which will be known in a few days, has had the opposing votes of Cándido Conde-Pumpido and María Luisa Balaguer, who is drafting a dissenting opinion, and resolves the appeals presented five years ago by most left-wing parties (PSOE, Izquierda Plural, UPyD, Chunta Aragonesista). Juan José González Rivas, president of the Constitutional Court, has been in charge of drafting the sentence, because he has replaced Fernando Valdés, who resigned due to a case of alleged sexual abuse.

On the other hand, the judges overturned the article of the law that penalises "unauthorised" recordings of state security forces during their actions in demonstrations and public events because they believe there is a high risk that prior restraint will be applied to the recordings and, therefore, the right to information will be limited.

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