UN Deals Heavy Blow to Spain over Human Rights

In a new report, the Human Rights Council of the UN sharply criticizes recent measures taken by the Spanish government. The conclusions reflect many of the concerns voiced by Rights International Spain.

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations, responsible for guaranteeing that states respect and correctly implement the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights, published its final report on Spain on July 23 after subjecting the country to a periodic review.

The council’s report in large part echoes both the concerns and the recommendations put forth in the shadow report issued by the organization Rights International Spain. It places special emphasis on the threat to human rights posed by many of the present government’s measures.

Serious failures to fulfill international human rights obligations in Spain

The council begins its final report by drawing attention to Spain's total failure to respond to rulings made by the council in individual cases of human rights violations. It expresses regret at the "absence of specific procedures to implement rulings by this council."

Gag laws

The council joins many other international voices in decrying the Citizen Security Law and the recent reforms to the penal code. It sharply critiques this law's "deterrent effect […] upon freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly" as well as its legalization of summary removals of migrants from Ceuta and Melilla.

Excessive use of force by the police and impunity of police officers

The council also makes note of the excessive use of force by officers of the security forces, both in the context of citizen protests and border controls. It expresses concern at the impunity of police responsible for these actions; these officers are habitually pardoned.

Use of incommunicado detention

The council once again questions Spain’s law that authorizes incommunicado detention for up to 13 days. Other organizations, including the European Court of Human Rights, have similarly criticized this practice. The council specifically expresses regret that the government has not taken advantage of the reform to the Criminal Justice Law presently underway to eradicate this practice.

The need to address crimes of the past

The council reproaches Spain once again for upholding the Amnesty Law of 1977, as this law "impedes the investigation of human rights violations in the past, specifically crimes of torture, forced disappearance and mass executions." The council also regrets the continued obstruction of research into crimes that took place during the Civil War and the Franco regime, as well as the granting of reparations to the victims.

Racial and ethnic discrimination

The council criticizes the lack of adequate policies to combat racial and ethic discrimination.It specifically refers to the inadequacy of the council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (to which it says more resources should be devoted and greater autonomy should be assured), and to ethnic profiling by the police.

Barriers to access to abortion for young women

In its report, the council expresses concern regarding legislation proposed by the present government that would impose parental authorization as a requisite for women between 16 and 18 years of age to access abortion. The council requests of Spain that "legal obstacles not compel women to make use of clandestine abortions, which would endanger their health and their lives."

Private Security Law

The Private Security Law, passed last year, also figures among the concerns mentioned by the council. The council criticizes the broad powers granted to private agents, the fact that these agents do not receive appropriate training in human rights, and the fact that there are no independent mechanisms for overseeing or reporting on their activities.

Foreigner Internment Centers

The council joins many other voices in criticizing the Spanish state’s policy of preventative internment of migrants with irregular administrative status. It makes note of the ease with which the state deprives of their liberty persons who have committed no crime, the abuses that are committed inside the internment centers, and the dreadful conditions of the centers themselves.

Recommendations in agreement with Rights International Spain

Civil society organizations had the opportunity to contribute to the process of review carried out by the Human Rights Council. In this context, Rights International Spain submitted its contribution to the 6th Periodic Review of Spain, describing in detail its principle concerns and the threats to human rights in the country.