Tech & Rights

3 Years Since the 'Gag Law' Was Passed, Here Are 5 Reasons Why It Should Have Never Been Approved

Three years after the approval of the so-called gag law, Liberties member Rights International Spain joins the initiatives of several collectives to demand its immediate repeal.

by Rights International Spain

Three years ago, the Spanish Parliament approved the Law on Public Security, also known as the "gag law" because of the way it restricts fundamental rights and freedoms, increases the risk of abuse of authority and, therefore, has a dissuasive effect by creating significant legal insecurity.

Rights International Spain has denounced the government's decision to respond to legitimate social protest by legislating against citizens’ rights and freedoms and protecting the security of institutions and authorities. In addition, this law also paved the way for the summary expulsion of migrants from Ceuta and Melilla, in blatant violation of international law. All of this is compounded by the fact that the law contains no safeguards against racial profiling.

Today, 17 March, a large protest will take place in the streets of Spain to demand its repeal. Rights International Spain has joined these initiatives with a video enumerating five reasons why the gag law should have never been approved.

Reason 1: Failure to communicate should not hinder the right to peaceful protest

The gag law allows for the imposition of fines in case of spontaneous peaceful protests, in violation of international human rights standards. This also violates the right to peaceful assembly established in Article 21 of the Spanish Constitution. In a democracy, the right to peaceful assembly should always be protected and facilitated, even if the demonstration or gathering was not previously communicated to the authorities.

Reason 2: The gag law hinders the exercise of entirely peaceful forms of protest

Rights International Spain is concerned that public spaces may stop being spaces for political participation. The gag law penalizes various forms of peaceful protest, such as demonstrations in front of the Parliament (with fines of up to 30,000 euros) or the peaceful occupation of buildings or public roads. States have the duty to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly.

Reason 3: The gag law can pave the way to police impunity

The gag law imposes fines of up to 30,000 euros for the "unauthorized use of images or personal or professional data of authorities or members of Security Forces and Bodies." In addition to violating the right to freedom of expression, this can lead to impunity in cases of excessive use of force by the police; it is important to remember that those images are oftentimes the main evidence used in trials against police brutality. Penalties are also imposed for “disrespect and lack of consideration toward members of Security Forces and Bodies,” which prohibits the expression of critical opinions against police actions.

Reason 4: The gag law 'legalizes' summary expulsions of migrants

The law is also used to provide legal standing for practices that blatantly violate international law, in particular the summary expulsions of migrants from the border posts of Ceuta and Melilla. These practices violate numerous human rights of people who are automatically expelled without the possibility of requesting asylum or denouncing ill-treatment by Spanish authorities. In addition, they violate the principle of non-refoulement, since these people risk becoming victims of torture in Morocco or their countries of origin.

Reason 5: No real safeguards were established against racial profiling in police stops and searches

The law does not include any of the measures recommended by international institutions for the protection of human rights to eradicate police stop-and-searches based on racial profiling. In effect, although the law established a cosmetic prohibition against discrimination during identity checks, police stops based on racial profiles continue to be a general practice three years after its approval.

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