Spain: Network of associations publishes in-depth report on torture

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On 10 June 2011, the Coordinadora para la prevención de la tortura (CPDT), a network of over 40 associations from different backgrounds that work in this field, presented the seventh edition of its exemplary report on torture in Spain, which covers the year 2010.

By adopting the definition used by the UN Convention against torture and other inhuman or degrading punishment, the report covers material concerning:

"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 documents 251 cases in which 540 people reported or opened legal proceedings in relation to their being subjected to attacks or ill-treatment by public officers. The list is admittedly not exhaustive, because some people asked for their cases not to be reported, some cases included incomplete information or were impossible to verify adequately, and there is always a number of cases that goes unreported, particularly when migrants or prisoners are on the receiving end of police brutality. A decrease in the likelihood of participants in mobilisations reporting or initiating lawsuits concerning violence against them is noted, which some witnesses explained were a result of fear that doing so may result in counter-charges being brought against them and a lack of trust in investigating authorities. Conversely, the report describes a slight increase in reports submitted by prisoners and migrants as "significant", because it is difficult for these people to file complaints and they run the risk of suffering adverse consequences for doing so.

The report includes brief descriptions of the events in the cases that are included, which are interesting in that they show the variety of circumstances in which such incidents occur and in explaining what the different kinds of behaviour by public officers that the network aims to erradicate are. Deaths in custody are also included, with details concerning 52 cases provided and the authors noting that there have been at least 50 other cases (in Catalan prisons) that are not included because they do not have adequate information about them. Moreover, the report provides a geographical breakdown of the regions in which they take place, the forces to which police or prison officers involved belong, and what categories are on the receiving end of such behaviour by law enforcement officers. The regions and autonomous communities in which the largest number of incidents are recorded are Madrid with 51, Andalusia with 50, Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) with 44, Catalonia with 23, Aragón and Galicia, with 18 and 17 respectively. As for the number of plaintiffs concerned, the highest numbers were in Madrid (138), Euskal Herria (132), Andalusia (68), Catalonia (67), Valencia (43) and Galicia (39). The authors explain that reports may be filed by the same people in different geographical contexts, particularly if they are moved while they are in custody, a circumstance that is commonplace in cases involving anti-terrorist operations. By contrasting the figures with the population, two of the highest ratios of complaints are from the north African enclave cities of Melilla (7.89 per 100,000 inhabitants) and Ceuta (3.72), and the other regions/autonomous communities in which this figure is higher than the national average of 1.15 are Euskal Herria (4.69), Madrid (2.14), the Balearic islands (1.63), Aragón (1.48) and Galicia (1.39). No complaints were received from the regions of Castilla La Mancha and La Rioja.

There is also a tentative breakdown of the typology of the victims of violence or ill-treatment by officers from law enforcement agencies into six categories, although some of the plaintiffs fall within more than one group. Members of social movements are recorded as being those most frequently mistreated (42 cases involving 200 people, accounting for 37.04% of the total), followed by migrants (60 cases/ 127people/ 23.52%), prisoners (78/ 85/ 15.74%), people in other contexts including traffic controls, alcohol testing, local feasts, etc. (54/ 77/ 14.26%), prisoners held incommunicado (21/ 57/ 10.70%) and minors (8/ 12/ 2.22%).

The breakdown according to which law enforcement agencies the officers singled out as being the culprits in the recorded cases belong to, shows that almost half the complaints concern the national police (79 cases involving 222 people, accounting for 41.11% of the total), followed by local police officers, prison officers and the Guardia Civil (police force with military status) on a relatively equal footing at between 15.74% and 14.63% of the total, affecting between 85 and 79 people, whereas there is a considerable difference in the number of cases reported for these three categories: 27 involving the Guardia Civil, 38 involving local police forces and 77 involving prison officers. The Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra and the Basque Ertzaintza respectively account for complaints by 9.63% and 3.15% of the victims, whereas the "others" category that includes staff in centres for minors, military police and port authority police, etc. applies to 2.40% of the complainants.


Summary of "La Tortura en el Estado Español: Informe 2010", Coordinadora para la Prevención de la Tortura, 10.6.2011

Full-text of the report: "La Tortura en el Estado Español: Informe 2010", Coordinadora para la Prevención de la Tortura

Website of the Coordinadora para la Prevención de la Tortura

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