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Organic Law for the Protection of Public Security: A Threat to Civil Liberties in Spain

The Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights(EMHRN), the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and the InternationalFederation for Human Rights (FIDH) deplore the adoption of the draft Basic Lawfor the Protection of Public Security, by the plenary of the Congress ofDeputies on 11 December 2014. Our three organisations denounce the growingrestrictions on the right to demonstrate in Spain.

This law, also called the “gag law,” was adopted on 25November by the Commission on Internal Affairs of the Congress of Deputies,without modifying the text in any meaningful manner so as to protect citizens’rights to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. Despite its rejectionby all the opposition parties and civil society organizations, which denouncedthe direct threat that the law poses to the right of peaceful assembly, anddespite the opposition of 82% of the Spanish public opinion according to recentpolls, this law was adopted the very day after Human Rights Day and will enterinto force by the end of this year.

Using the pretext of improving public safety, theBasic Law on the Protection of Public Security establishes an arsenal ofadministrative sanctions, some of them very severe, aimed at dissuadingcitizens from expressing their concerns by means of public demonstrations. Thislaw would criminalize collective action and new forms of expression that havedeveloped in recent years, including escraches(“demonstrations aiming at public denunciations”), sit-ins, “occupying” public spaces, peaceful “surrounding”of parliaments and “concerts of pots and pans”.

In addition, it is particularly alarming that finescan be imposed for organizing public meetings and demonstrations without advisingthe authorities in advance, including spontaneous gatherings, for which priornotification is impossible. No account at all is taken of the peaceful natureof the demonstrations. Peaceful assemblies in the vicinity of the Congress, theSenate or the legislative assemblies of the Autonomous Regions, will beconsidered as “serious offence” punishable by a fine of up to 30,000 euros shouldthey seriously disturb public order. The “non-authorized” use of images of theauthorities or law enforcement personnel would also be considered a “seriousoffence”, which could hinder the documentation of abuses by law enforcementpersonnel and reinforce the impunity they already enjoy.

EMHRN, OMCT and FIDH also denounce the legalisation,by an amendment presented at the last minute by the Government, of the practiceof summary expulsion, used in Ceuta and Melilla, by which migrants from Moroccowho have succeeded in crossing the border are immediately sent back. Ourorganisations consider that this new provision violates the right to asylum andthe principle of non-refoulement. Moreover, this amendment exposes thesemigrants to serious risk of torture and ill-treatment since they would be deprivedof the possibility of filing a claim in case of abuses by law enforcementpersonnel.

The adoption of the draft Basic Law for the Protectionof Public Security is contrary to the international commitments undertaken bySpain, in particular the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951;articles 12.1, 18 and 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EuropeanUnion and article 4 of Protocol No 4; article 11 of the European Convention onHuman Rights; and the recommendations of the European Court of Human Rights andother international human rights bodies. The Council of Europe HighCommissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Nils Muiznieks, has also emphasized thethreat that the law poses for the exercise of the right of peaceful assemblyand has called for the prior authorization requirement, the classification ofdemonstrations around Congress or the regional assemblies as grave offences andthe prohibition on recording images of law enforcement personnel in theexercise of their duties to be removed from the final version. The Commissioneralso noted that the proposal to legalise automatic and collective expulsions ofmigrants is “unjust and illegal” under international law.

EMHRN, OMCT and FIDH therefore call upon the Spanishauthorities to modify the law without delay so that it conforms to theinternational standards concerning the rights to assembly and to asylum, andexpects a firm reaction from the European Union, including the EuropeanParliament and other member States, in the face of this violation of civilliberties in Spain.

For more information, please contact:

· EMHRN: Samer Ibrahim Abu Rass : Tel:+32 2 213 51 95

· OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41 22809 49 24

· FIDH: Arthur Manet/Audrey Couprie: +33 143 55 25 18

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