Spain's Human Rights Situation Criticized in Annual Report

Spain has gone backwards when it comes to ensuring the rights of citizens in a number of critical areas, including access the justice system.
Rights International Spain has published its annual report on the situation of human rights in Spain. The report confirms the bad trend of human rights protection in Spain in 2015.

Several UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs have urged the Spanish government to withdraw or revise certain legislative reforms and to change their practices, in order to ensure they comply with international law and human rights standards. The Public Safety Law, the reforms of the criminal code, universal jurisdiction or pregnancy interruption have all been condemned by many international bodies.

The gag remains

The Committee Against Torture, the Human Rights Committee and CEDAW assessed the Spanish reports and expressed their concerns. All three committees condemned the lack compliance with the previous recommendations. They were also extremely critical on the lack of conscientiousness, monitoring and application of judgments or decisions passed on individual judgments.

The Human Rights Council adopted the Universal Periodic Review report (UPR) on Spain with important recommendations. However, although the Spanish government has accepted many of the recommendations, it has refused to accept a number of important ones, such as the abolition of solitary confinement, the "gag law," the instruction that "legalizes" summary deportations or the adoption of an Equality Act, which would include international standards to fight against all kinds of discrimination.

Border issues

As stated in the RIS annual report, all the aforementioned institutions condemn the attacks on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of information, the lack of effective inquiries for the prevention of torture, the excessive use of force and the lack of accountability of the police, solitary confinement and the lack of safeguards, summary deportations, the lack of appropriate policies to address ethnic discrimination, the complete absence of any investigation of the crimes of the past and the lack of an appropriate training on human rights for members of the judiciary.

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe visited Spain with concerns about summary returns from Ceuta and Melilla. In addition, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe published a report focusing on different elements of Spanish immigration control policy, such as the use of violence by the police. As for the situation on the southern border, the commissioner insisted on the obligation of non-refoulement and safeguarding a swift and effective investigation of the cases of ill-treatment by police officers.

Gone backwards

The ESCR Committee issued a decision (Views) against Spain for the lack of effective access to courts (due to irregularities in the process) to protect the right to housing. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Spain several times.

Most of these decisions are related to the violation of Article 3 (lack of adequate investigation on torture and ill-treatment), Article 6 (fair trial), Article 13 (lack of an adequate appeal) and Article 8 (family life). In one of these judgments, Spain acknowledged the violation of the applicant's rights, but it reached an agreement. Finally, the Court of Justice of the European Union has issued an important ruling on fundamental rights reminding Spain of the lack of procedural safeguards for people with mortgages.

To sum up, Spain has not only restricted civil rights and liberties, but it has even gone backwards with respect to the possibility of proper defense in court, setting up obstacles for common citizens to access the justice system and receive adequate protection.

It is important to remember that the responsibility to protect, respect and implement human rights not only belongs to the government (executive power), but to also to the other state powers (legislative and judicial).