Annual report on torture reveals large increase in cases of abuse against demonstrators
On 1 June 2011 in Seville, the Coordinadora para la Prevención y Denuncia de la Tortura (CPDT, a network that includes 44 associations) released its eighth annual "Report on torture in the Spanish state", a comprehensive analysis of cases of torture enacted by police officers and public officials in different contexts that range from demonstrations and prisons to police stations and policing in the streets. The definition that is used in collecting these cases is drawn from art. 1 of the UN Convention against Torture (CAT):
"For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions".
The report includes information on 280 cases of attacks and ill-treatment suffered by 853 people, the highest number of victims recorded since the CPDT's first report in 2005 (covering the year 2004) when 755 people were affected and over 300 more victims than in 2010, the year with the lowest number of victims (540). The number of cases has remained roughly stable over these eight years, with a maximum of 319 in 2008 and a minimum of 242 in 2009. The data is not exhaustive because cases have been excluded at the request of victims or if the information received was insufficient or not adequately confirmed, and a significant number of incidents involving violence by police or prison officers are never reported, especially when the victims are prisoners or foreigners. Moreover, the report is based on information gathered by associations that are CPDT members and, hence, there are autonomous communities in which they are not present. In spite of the "spectacular" increase in people who have suffered torture and ill-treatment, the report notes the "trend of not reporting attacks suffered by people who participate in various social mobilisations" due to the fear of becoming involved in counterclaims by the police and to a lack of trust in the authorities that investigate these cases. To illustrate this, the authors refer to a demonstration in Plaza de Catalunya in Barcelona in which the Mossos d'Esquadra (the Catalan police force) intervened forcefully: the medical services officially acknowledged having tended to 120 people, the media reported that 150-200 people were injured, but only 56 people lodged formal complaints.
Three criteria are used to analyse the problem of torture in Spain: the geographical location where it is practised; who the people on the receiving end of violence are; and which bodies or police and security forces have carried out abuses. The highest number of incidents were in the Madrid region (50), followed by Andalucía (48), Catalunya (40), Euskal Herria (the Basque Country, 35), the Valencia region (22), Castilla y León (20), Galicia (18), Aragón (14) and the Balearic islands (10). There were no cases in La Rioja, one in Castilla La Mancha and Melilla, and less than ten cases were recorded in all the other autonomous communities. The number of victims was highest in Catalunya (241), followed by Euskal Herria (158), the Madrid region (111), Andalucía (105), the Balearic islands (60), the Valencia region (55), Castilla y León (40) and Galicia (36). The figures vary somewhat compared to the total because some people suffered violence in different locations and at the hands of different bodies (particularly in the context of anti-terrorist operations in which suspects are transferred to Madrid).
By breaking down the data and comparing it with the population of the different autonomous communities, the outcome is that the average rate of victims per 100,000 people throughout Spain is 1.78, above which there are only four autonomous communities - Euskal Herria tops the chart, with 5.59, followed by the Balearic islands, 5.39, Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in northern Morocco, with 3.64 (for three victims, considering its low population) and Catalunya, with 3.19. Despite recording over 100 victims, the rate for the Madrid region (with a population comparable to Catalunya) is 1.48, the sixth worse nationwide, and Andalucía (the largest autonomous community in terms of population) is tenth with 1.25 per 100,000 people.
Analysis of the personal situation of victims of police violence is divided into six categories: people in incommunicado detention; participants in social mobilisations; migrants; prisoners; minors; and a wide-ranging "others" category (including sports events, identification by officers in the street or alcohol testing for drivers, for example) that tops the list for the number of cases (77), followed by social mobilisations (75), migrants (74), prisoners (64), minors (13) and people in incommunicado detention (6). The highest number of victims was among participants in social mobilisations (433), followed at a distance by "others" (235), migrants (110), prisoners (71), minors (27) and people held incommunicado (18). The total (894) is higher than the total for the year (853) because there are people who belong in more than one category. The high number of victims among participants in social mobilisations must be read within the context of increasing social unrest and the nationwide Indignad@s 15M protest movement, during whose mobilisations (camps in squares, sit-in protests, actions against evictions) police operations resulted in people being wounded. A comparative chart on victims of police ill-treatment during social mobilisations shows that this year's figure of 433 is the highest to date, followed by 2004 when the figure was 368 and then 2009 with 302 victims. The figure for 2010 was 200, less than half the figure for 2011. 246 people, equivalent to 57% of those ill-treated during social mobilisations, were on the receiving end of abuse by police forces during Indignad@s 15M actions, a group that also makes up 28.8% of the total number of affected people. It is worth noting that a majority of the women who were on the receiving end of violence or ill-treatment were participants in social mobilisations (98 out of a total of 148), followed by "others" (20) and migrant women (19).
As for the officers against whom complaints were lodged for cases of torture or ill-treatment, there were 100 cases involving the national police force, with 289 people affected; both the local police forces and the prison service were accused in 64 cases, involving 141 and 71 people respectively; autonomous community police forces were involved in 36 incidents (33 of which concerned the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra and the Basque Ertzaintza) that were reported and affected 338 people in total (of whom 213 were in Catalunya and 116 in Euskal Herria); complaints were lodged against Guardia Civil [police force with military status] officers in 15 cases affecting 18 people; and, finally, complaints were lodged in four cases against staff from minors' centres affecting 13 people.
By analysing the data on police forces and the typology of victims, it becomes evident that people in incommunicado detention were only allegedly abused by national police (22.2%) and Guardia Civil (77.8%) officers. This is logical, considering that this kind of detention - which has repeatedly drawn criticism from UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture - is used for terrorist suspects who are dealt with in the context of national operations for which these two forces are responsible. Almost half of the participants in social movements who suffered abuses (49.2%) did so at the hands of the Mossos d'Esquadra or the Ertzaintza, whereas the national police force was responsible in 37.9% of cases and local police forces the alleged culprits in 9.8% of cases. Half the migrants (50%) who reported that they had been mistreated accused the national police force, with local police forces responsible in 28.2% of cases.
The CPDT reports that in 2011 there were 51 deaths in custody, which it refers to as an "endemic disease in the Spanish state." It notes that in a decade from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2011, the CPDT has "directly" learnt of 722 deaths, 65% of them (465) in prisons. The 51 deaths recorded for 2011 include 34 deaths in prison, seven in the custody of the national police force, five in the custody of local police forces, four in the custody of minors' centres' staff, and one in the custody of the Mossos d'Esquadra.
"La Tortura en el Estado Español en el año 2011", Coordinadora para la Prevención y Denuncia de la Tortura, Seville, 1 June 2012, summary:
Full-text of the report: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2012/jun/spain-cpdt-annual-report-2011.pdf
Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | Download a free sample issue of Statewatch Journal
© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.