Spain: Supreme Court upholds complaint against immigrant detention centre regulation

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On 5 September 2005, the 3rd Chamber of the Supreme Court upheld an appeal filed by three NGOs (Andalucía Acoge, Asociación Andaluza por la Solidaridad y la Paz - ASPA, and 'La mitad del cielo' progressive women's association), in relation to a ministerial order issued by the last Partido Popular (PP) government in February 1999 that regulated the internal management and running of the centros de internamiento para extranjeros (CIE, foreigner detention centres).

According to the plaintiffs, the ruling highlights that CIEs were run unlawfully between 1999 and 2003, in a situation in which the use of force, punishment regimes involving isolation, and a restriction of the rights to receive visits and to request protection or file complaints, were suffered by migrants who were detained, who had committed administrative rather than criminal offences. The NGOs highlighted that detainees in CIEs (there are seven of them, in Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Algeciras, Valencia, the Canary Islands and the Basque Country) have less formal guarantees than prisoners in Spanish jails as a result of the absence of a law regulating these centres, and called on the government to work with NGOs and social movements on this issue and to be "coherent", in reference to an amendment presented by the Socialist party (PSOE) while it was in opposition in 2000 calling for a law to regulate the functioning of CIEs.

The judgment annuls a previous ruling that rejected the NGOs' complaint by the Audiencia Nacional in January 2001, against which this appeal was filed, and repeals the whole of article 34 (provisions to guarantee the maintenance of order in the centres if disturbances occur, which include measures such as isolation) and sections of articles 30 (regulating the regime for visits, including the behaviour to be followed by detainees, and the receipt of packages) and 33 (the section stating that any requests or complaints made by detainees concerning the centre must be submitted to its director, before s/he must pass it on to the competent authority) of the order, which it deems unlawful.


"El Supremo falla en contra del funcionamiento de los centros de internamiento de extranjeros", 5.9.2005.

Full-text of the judgment (pdf in Spanish)

The order against which the complaint was filed:
Orden de 22 de febrero de 1999 sobre normas de funcionamiento y régimen interior de los centros de internamiento de extranjeros:

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