Tagasi Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes a report on Spain

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) publishes today the report on its visit to Spain which took place in July 2014 as well as the response of the Spanish authorities.
The purpose of the 2014 visit to Spain was to examine certain aspects of the treatment of irregular migrants intercepted in the enclave of Melilla along the border with Morocco, as well as to assess the implementation of the previous CPT’s recommendations in relation to the detention centres for foreigners (CIEs) in Barcelona (Zona Franca) and Madrid (Aluche).

In Melilla, the CPT received several allegations of excessive use of force by members of the Guardia Civil when apprehending irregular migrants attempting to enter Spanish territory at the multi-fence land border with Morocco. Reference is made in the report to an incident on 15 October 2014, documented by video footage, during which an irregular migrant was subjected to at least eight truncheon blows by Guardia Civil officers while he was climbing down from the fence and was subsequently handcuffed and returned to Morocco by Guardia Civil officers despite being apparently motionless. The CPT requested that a prompt and effective inquiry be carried out into this incident and that measures be taken to improve the training of members of the Guardia Civil.

Foreign nationals met by the CPT’s delegation also alleged that they were subjected to physical ill-treatment such as kicks, blows with wooden sticks and branches by members of the Moroccan Auxiliary Forces (MAF) after they had been apprehended by the MAF at the fence border within Spanish territory, or once they had been returned to Morocco by Guardia Civil officers. The CPT recommends that MAF officials are not permitted to enter Spanish territory to apprehend and forcibly return irregular migrants to Morocco outside of any legal framework, and that no foreign national be handed over to these forces in light of the risk of ill-treatment. The Committee also expresses its preoccupation in relation to recently adopted legislation, pending in front of the Spanish parliament at the time of the adoption of the report, which legalises the practice of forcibly deporting irregular migrants without any prior identification or assessment of their needs.

In their response, the Spanish authorities provide details in relation to the incident of 15 October 2014 asserting that the irregular migrant in question simulated being unconscious.  Further, they also indicate that the MAF are, under special circumstances, allowed to enter the Spanish territory in order to protect themselves from the flux of irregular migrants.

As regards the CIE of Zona Franca, the report indicates that allegations of physical ill-treatment and verbal abuse of detained persons were received in particular in relation to a specific shift of custodial police officers. Further, episodes of inter-detainee violence and intimidation between foreign nationals of different ethnic origin were frequent at that CIE. The CPT reminds the Spanish authorities of their responsibility to ensure the physical integrity of every detained person by eradicating ill-treatment by staff and implementing an anti-violence strategy.  

In their response the Spanish authorities provide an account of the various training activities in place for law enforcement officers operating at the same establishments.

The report also highlights that the two visited CIEs continue to display a prison-like environment (insufficient living space, absence of furniture in room and metal shutters on windows), which is inappropriate for persons detained under aliens legislation.  Recommendations are put forward by the Committee in order to address this situation, in particular to ensure that detainees held in multi-occupancy rooms at the CIE of Aluche are provided with at least 4m2 of living space per person. On a more positive note, the report notes that persons detained at both visited CIEs had access to outdoor exercise for four hours per day and that Spanish language courses were offered on a weekly basis to foreign nationals.  

The CPT's report and the Spanish authorities' response are available on the Committee’s website (http://www.cpt.coe.int).

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