Spain
Head of state
King Juan Carlos I de Borbón
Head of government
Mariano Rajoy

There were continued reports of excessive use of force by police during demonstrations. Human rights bodies condemned Spain for the lack of adequate investigations into allegations of torture.

Background

Demonstrations continued throughout the year, calling for changes in the political system to allow for greater public participation in political affairs and to protest against austerity measures implemented to combat the financial and economic crisis.

In June, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that Spain review reforms adopted in relation to the financial crisis to ensure that all austerity measures upheld economic, social and cultural rights and were temporary, proportionate and without prejudice to those rights. The Committee also recommended taking legislative measures to ensure that economic, social and cultural rights enjoy the same protections as civil and political rights.

No violent attacks by the armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) were reported during 2012, after the group announced the end of its armed struggle in October 2011.

In November, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that same-sex marriage was consistent with the provisions of the Spanish Constitution, following the Popular Party’s 2005 appeal against legislation permitting same-sex marriage.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

Demonstrations took place throughout the year in different cities including Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. There were frequent allegations of excessive use of force and of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials while dispersing crowds during the protests. In general, investigations into complaints were not thorough or effective; some were made impossible by the lack of identification tags on the uniforms of police alleged to have been involved.

  • In March, a Barcelona court closed the investigation on alleged excessive use of force by Mossos d’Esquadra police when dispersing demonstrators in Barcelona on 27 May 2011. The court found that the police action had been proportionate. However, on 29 October a higher court ordered the reopening of the case.
  • Also in March, a Madrid court issued a decision not to admit a complaint lodged in 2011 by Angela Jaramillo, as the policewoman responsible for hitting her could not be identified. Angela Jaramillo was among several people who, despite their peaceful conduct during a demonstration in Madrid on 4 August 2011, were repeatedly hit with batons by police and required medical treatment. Angela Jaramillo died in June 2012 after suffering a heart attack.
  • On 11 July, a freelance journalist, Paloma Aznar, was hit by a rubber bullet and injured on the hip while covering miners’ demonstrations in Madrid. She was wearing her journalist tag with her camera round her neck. She reported that police were not wearing any visible identification and were shooting rubber bullets directly at the crowd after some demonstrators became violent. Video footage showed police using batons against people lying on the pavement and firing rubber bullets at close range.
  • On 25 September, during a demonstration in Madrid, unidentified police beat peaceful demonstrators with batons, fired rubber bullets at them, and threatened journalists covering the events – including inside Atocha train station. An internal investigation was reportedly opened on the police operation. Its results had not been made public at the end of the year.

Investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were often inadequate and recognized as such in decisions adopted by human rights bodies and courts during the year.

  • In April, two police officers charged with killing Osamuyia Akpitaye while he was being forcibly deported in June 2007 were convicted of the minor offence of negligence by a criminal court. No prison sentence was imposed.
  • In May, the UN Committee against Torture found that Spain had failed to adequately investigate allegations of torture in the case Orkatz Gallastegi v. Spain. Orkatz Gallastegi was convicted in 2005 on the basis of self-incriminating evidence allegedly extracted under duress while in incommunicado detention in 2002.
  • In July, the Constitutional Court declined to review the 2011 Supreme Court acquittal of four civil guards following their conviction in December 2010 by Guipúzcoa Criminal Court for torturing Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola on 6 January 2008, while they were in police custody.
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Counter-terror and security

Investigations of crimes committed by members of the armed group ETA continued.

Spain again failed to implement international human rights bodies’ recommendations to abolish the use of incommunicado detention for people suspected of terrorism-related offences. The practice allows detainees to be held for up to 13 days, during which time they are denied access to a doctor or lawyer of their choice, cannot consult their state-appointed lawyer in private and cannot have their family informed of their whereabouts.

  • In December, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal from lawyers in the “Bush Six” case to prosecute in Spain six individuals alleged to be complicit in creating the legal framework that resulted in the torture of suspected terrorists at US-run detention facilities after the case had not progressed in US courts. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Court ruled that the USA was conducting investigations. The decision was expected to be appealed to the Constitutional Court.
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Racism and discrimination

Muslims and other religious minorities continued to face obstacles in obtaining permits to open places of worship in some municipalities in Catalonia, following local moratoriums on new places of worship. Some local authorities, political parties and associations of neighbours continued to voice opposition to the establishment of Muslim prayer rooms.

Restrictions on wearing religious symbols and dress were maintained in some schools and continued to have a disproportionate impact on Muslim pupils.

  • On 25 January, a court in Madrid upheld the decision of a state-funded secondary school in Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid, to exclude a pupil from regular classes because she wore a headscarf.
  • On 21 May, the Head of Police issued a circular prohibiting the use of quotas and police raids for detaining foreign nationals with an irregular status. However, the measure failed to prohibit identity checks based on racial or ethnic characteristics. Local NGOs continued to report that police were targeting people from ethnic minorities when conducting such checks.
  • In July, the European Court of Humans Rights found that Spain had failed to conduct an effective investigation into allegations of police ill-treatment, and potential racist bias, in the case of a Nigerian, Beauty Solomon. She had reported being verbally abused and beaten by police officers in Palma de Mallorca in July 2005.
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Violence against women

During 2012, 46 women were killed by their partners or former partners, according to the Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equality. A survey carried out by the Spanish government estimated that more than 2 million women had suffered gender violence by partners or ex-partners at least once. Seven years after the introduction of the law against gender-based violence, women continued to lack access to effective remedies. Since 2005, when specialized tribunals on violence against women were set up, no assessment has been made of the obstacles to effective protection that women may face during judicial proceedings.

  • María (name withheld) survived sexual, psychological and physical violence by her partner, which resulted in her not being able to walk for six months. She continued to receive serious threats throughout the four years of the judicial investigation and after the trial. Although she reported her situation to the authorities, she received no protection and was forced to leave her home. Her ex-partner was acquitted. At the end of 2012, she was still receiving serious threats and living in hiding.
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Refugees and migrants

In April, the adoption of Royal Decree-Law No. 16/2012 reformed the Aliens Act, limiting irregular migrants’ access to public health services.

On 4 September, Spain collectively expelled 70 migrants from the Spanish islet Isla de Tierra to Morocco. None of them had access to an individual asylum procedure.

  • In August, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Spain responsible for the arbitrary detention, discrimination and ill-treatment amounting to torture of a Moroccan citizen detained in an immigration detention centre in Madrid. Adnam el Hadj was stopped on the street for an identity check and taken to the detention centre. There, five police officers allegedly hit him several times and made racist insults. The detention centre’s medical department found multiple bruises on his body and recommended that he be taken to hospital. He was not taken to a hospital and no medical report was drawn up.
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Crimes under international law

The definition of enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity in domestic legislation continued to fall short of obligations under international law, despite Spain’s ratification of the International Convention against enforced disappearance.

  • On 27 February 2012, the Supreme Court acquitted former judge Baltasar Garzón of exceeding his authority. Baltasar Garzón was prosecuted, among other things, for violating the 1977 Amnesty Law by launching an investigation in 2008 into the enforced disappearances of 114,266 people between July 1936 and December 1951. Despite the acquittal, the Supreme Court concluded that Baltasar Garzón had wrongfully interpreted the law when considering the facts under investigation as crimes against humanity. According to the Court, the crimes were not defined as crimes against humanity within domestic law at the time they were committed. This judgement by the Supreme Court may rule out the possibility of investigating past crimes under international law in Spain.
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Housing rights

The government implemented legislative reforms relating to the economic crisis without assessing their impact on vulnerable people’s rights.

  • In Madrid, forced evictions continued to take place in Cañada Real, despite Law 2/2011 of 15 May 2011, which urged competent local authorities to consult affected residents and to strive towards reaching an agreement to avoid evictions. In the informal settlement of Puerta de Hierro, also in Madrid and inhabited by Roma, 300 people were evicted without being provided adequate alternative housing.
  • In June, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concerns about continuing evictions being implemented in breach of international legal safeguards, including on genuine prior consultation, compensation and adequate alternative housing. The Committee recommended the adoption of a legal framework setting out guidelines to be followed prior to evictions.
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