Spain: Annual report by the Coordinadora para la prevención de la tortura on torture in Spain (1)

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On 29 May 2009, the Coordinadora para la prevención de la tortura, a network comprising over 40 groups from Spain and Portugal working on the issue of torture by police and security officers and public officers, presented its fifth annual report in Zaragoza, reporting on events in 2008.

The cases reported fall under the UN Convention on Torture definition:

"any act whereby a person is subjected to pain or serious suffering, both physical and mental for the purposes of obtaining information, punishment, intimidation or coercion, when they are inflicted by a public officer or another person in the exercise of their public duties at their behest or with their permission".

It deals with 274 cases affecting 579 people, and identifies a trend whereby less people are willing to report instances of ill-treatment for fear of facing counter-allegations by law enforcement agencies and out of lack of faith in the authorities investigating the allegations. According to the authors, while this previously applied principally to undocumented migrants, prisoners and members of the gipsy community, it appears to be spreading out to members of social movements. Apart from documenting new claims filed, the report also looks at the developments in judicial proceedings concerning complaints from previous years and new cases from earlier years which had not yet surfaced.

The figures are lower than those for 2007, when 319 cases affecting 689 people were reported. The data is broken down on a regional [autonomous community] basis, detailing that those in which the most incidents took place were Andalusia (57), Madrid (49), Catalonia (28) and Euskadi (the Basque Country, 27), with Cantabria the only region where no cases were recorded and eight others in which less than ten such cases were documented (Canary islands, Asturias, Ceuta, Castille-La Mancha, Melilla, Murcia, Extremadura and La Rioja). Cross-referencing this information with the different regions' populations (excluding the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla due to their small populations), the regions where most cases were recorded per 100,000 inhabitants were Navarre (8.38), Euskadi (4.45), the Balearic islands (3.17), Aragon (2.11) Madrid (1.90) and Galicia (1.54), with a national average of 1.25 complaints per 100,000 inhabitants (down from 1.52) and Madrid and Catalonia falling out of the top four places in this table. As for the people reporting these abuses, the largest number were involved in social mobilisations (175), followed by feasts/sports events (89), migrants (84) and prisoners (83).

The national police were responsible for 209 instances during which abuses were alleged, local police forces accounted for 90, prison officers for 63, the Guardia Civil for 56 and, among the autonomous regional police forces, the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra were responsible for 54 and the Basque Ertzaintza for 43. Monitoring of the progress of judicial proceedings from previous years is also included, and the report highlights complaints by the UN's special Rapporteur on Torture on the length of proceedings and effectiveness of investigations. At least 97 deaths in custody are also reported with details provided about the 56 such cases in which the network was able to collect information.


- Summary of the report (in Spanish)
- "La tortura en el Estado Español", full-text of the report (pdf, 218 pp., in Spanish)
- Coordinadora para la prevención de la tortura

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