CEAR lawyer detained for assisting Iraqi refugees


Francisco Jiménez, a lawyer from the Spanish Commission for Assistance to Refugees (CEAR), was detained after providing legal assistance on 29 December 2002 to three Iraqi stowaways on the Candelaria B, a boat that was anchored opposite Valencia port, leading to the submission of their asylum applications. The CEAR issued a press statement (below) condemning the detention, and alleges that this is not an isolated incident because "during the last few years, complaints have been made to several bodies (Ombudsman, UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva) about the practice by Spanish authorities in relation to asylum seekers, with a trend towards the denial of immediate legal assistance to stowaways who are detected along its coast."

The detention occurred on 8 January 2003 in a café near to the CEAR office in Cullera (Valencia). Two officers from the Policía Nacional (national police) told him that he was under arrest for falsifying documents and undertaking functions not related to his position, and he was taken to a police station. He was not shown any judicial warrant despite asking to see one, and CEAR lawyers later found that it did not exist. A chief inspector told him that CEAR did not have the authority to provide assistance to stowaways demanding asylum in Valencia harbour, and that he was being detained for usurping the authority of the police by signing in the wrong box of the asylum applications. He was fingerprinted and his rights were read to him, but he was released after refusing to give a statement to the police, because he wanted to make that statement before a judge. On 13 January 2003 CEAR lawyers found that no judicial initiative had been taken against Francisco Jiménez.

Meanwhile, the asylum application filed by the three Iraqis was not examined and they remained on the Candelaria B until it docked once again in Valencia on 10 January 2003, where police authorities and CEAR lawyers interviewed them and the asylum applications were finally completed and formally received for examination. Calling for an urgent action (below, in Spanish) for solidarity from ONGs, institutions, professionals and citizens in general, the CEAR criticised the administration´s "clear interference" in its work "through arbitrary measures".

Translated statement 8.1.2003

The Spanish Commission for Assistance to Refugees (CEAR) criticises the detention of one of its lawyers by the national police

This morning, on 8 January, members of the national police presented themselves in the offices of the CEAR in Cullera (Valencia) proceeding to the detention of Francisco Jiménez, lawyer and member of our oganisation´s Legal Service. At this time our colleague still remains in detention on police premises.

The events begin on (see CEAR statement of 30 December 2002) with the arrival on the Spanish coast (first Barcelona harbour, and later Valencia) of three stowaways in the ship "Candelaria B" that was flying a Spanish flag. The captain, Jorge Villar Tenreiro, reported that the interviews of the stowaways by police in Barcelona took place without the presence of an interpreter and a lawyer, as is mandatory. In the same way, the lawyer and translator provided by the ship´s insurance company were prevented from assisting. Before this situation that is in breach of the Right to Legal Assistance for persons who state their intention to enter Spain or to request asylum, and to guarantee legal assistance to the three stowaways, one of them in possession of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) documentation, CEAR lawyer Francisco Jiménez, with permission from the insurance company, gained access to the boat which was anchored opposite Valencia harbour on Sunday 29 December 2002. After carrying out the interviews, from which acts of persecution from which the applicants are fleeing surface, the CEAR lawyer - identified as such at all times - and currently detained, completed and presented the asylum applications on behalf of the stowaways on the same day, the 29th, at 11 a.m. in the records office of the Government Delegation to the Valencian Community [the offices of the representative of the central government in the autonomous region of Valencia].

CEAR, as well as its members acting on its behalf, has legal authorisation to provide counseling in the handling of asylum applications on Spanish territory as well as its borders, and is present in aeroports and harbours in order to guarantee the right recognised in article 13.4 of the Spanish Constitution as well as in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees to possible asylum applicants.

"If we go back, they´ll execute us" - statement from one of the stowaways.

In spite of the submission of asylum applications by the three stowaways, the Spanish authorities did not see fit to examine them, leaving them to set off on the following path: Italy (Genoa) and currently Tunis. At CEAR we do not know the situation of the three stowaways. Yes, we do know that their next destination is Spain, again, (Barcelona harbour and Valencia respectively) next weekend.

In this situation, and faced with the likely fulfillment of our work in defence of the stowaways´ rights on their imminent arrival in Spain, the detention of CEAR lawyer Francisco Jiménez takes place under the charges of usurping duties and of presenting false documentation for submitting the asylum applications formulated by the stowaways on board the ship, before the immigration office in Valencia.

CEAR is not aware, and nor is the lawyer who has intervened in the [legal] care exercised since Franciso Jiménez´s arrest, that the latter has been arrested on the basis of a judicial order. It is the belief of this organisation, in the case in which no such judicial order exists and nor is a flagrant criminal act being committed at the time of detention, the arrest would be clearly illegal.

CEAR, together with Amnesty International, the immigration section of the Valencia Bar Association, the Red Cross and AVAR repeats its criticism of the breach of the right to asylum for stowaways in the Spanish coasts, demanding the relevant Government Delegation to comply with the legislation in force, and serious actions like the unjustified detention of our comrade, Paco.

This kind of action - the detention of the CEAR lawyer - will not prevent our organisation from continuing its commitment in defence of the legal Constitutional and Human right to asylum, refuge and in the meticulous defence of refugees, criticising any acts by the authorities that may constitute a breach of these fundamental rights.

For further information:
CEAR, Central Office of the Communication Department: 0034 91 804 6556

Spanish version of translated statement

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