CIVICUS

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Spain

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Last updated on 27.09.2019 at 11:08

Spain-Overview

Civic freedoms are constitutionally protected in Spain, however new laws, including the Basic Law for the Protection of Public Security, undermine protest rights by imposing restrictions on where and when a gathering can take place, and imposing huge fines on the organisers of unauthorised gatherings at installations like nuclear power plants.

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Police arrested nine people linked to pro-Catalan independence groups

Police arrested nine people linked to pro-Catalan independence groups

On 23rd September 2019, the police arrested nine people linked to pro-Catalan independence groups on suspicion they may have been plotting violent acts to be committed in the next few weeks.

Peaceful Assembly

On 23rd September 2019, the police arrested nine people linked to pro-Catalan independence groups on suspicion they may have been plotting violent acts to be committed in the next few weeks.

As a reaction, hundreds of separatist protesters rallied in Barcelona demanding that the detained be set free. The Catalan independence movement has largely been peaceful over the past few years. According to regional government leader Quim Torra, "Repression remains the only answer from the Spanish state. They are trying to build again a narrative of violence before the rulings. They will not achieve it. The pro-independence movement is and will always be peaceful."

Earlier, on 11th September 2019, on Catalonia's national day 'La Diada' around 600,000 people marched in Barcelona in support of Catalan independence. According to reports, this was only the second time in eight years that fewer than a million people have turned up at the Diada rally in Barcelona. 

According to media reports, on the evening after the main demonstration, a few hundred people gathered outside the regional parliament. Some masked protesters threw flares at riot police.

In a separate incident, on 20th September 2019, more than 250 protests were held across Spain to declare a “feminist emergency”. Participants aimed at raising concern and calling attention to the high number of women murdered in domestic violence attacks. They have also aimed at making politicians listen and understand the severity of the problem.

A few days earlier, the Community of Madrid heavily cut the funding of two women's federations working against domestic violence.

Expression

In July 2019, the new conservative administration of the Madrid City Council cancelled two concerts. The first, scheduled for early July, was a concert of Def con Dos. The City Council said they were not to promote the concert of a group whose singer has been convicted for glorifying terrorism.

In 2017, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced Def con Dos’ singer, César Strawberry, to a year in prison for the crimes of glorifying terrorism and humiliating victims of terrorism. The offences stem from comments published on his Twitter feed between November 2013 and January 2014 in which he made fun of some victims of terrorism and criticised some public authorities, wishing death upon them.

The other concert, by Luis Pastor, was scheduled for the 8th of September. According to El Nacional, Luis Pastor, the “singer-songwriter committed to the anti-Franco struggle, already suffered censorship in the seventies, at the end of the regime, when his first album was cut and only four tracks could see the light. Now, almost fifty years later, he has seen how his concert has been suspended by the political change in the Madrid City Council.”

Peaceful Assembly

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is enshrined in Article 21 of the Spanish Constitution which explicitly states that the exercise of this right does not require authorisation, but that the authorities should be notified in advance of assemblies taking place in public areas.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is enshrined in Article 21 of the Spanish Constitution which explicitly states that the exercise of this right does not require authorisation, but that the authorities should be notified in advance of assemblies taking place in public areas. The Organic Act No. 9/1983, establish a prior notification period of 10 days, and 24-hour notification only in exceptional circumstances. However, the legislation does not explicitly allow spontaneous demonstrations. Other, more recent legal instruments unduly restrict the right. The Basic Law for the Protection of Public Security, which entered into force in March 2015, imposes time and place limitations and penalises spontaneous demonstrations. The law also introduces new offences and includes disproportionate penalties including fines of up to €600,000 for not declaring gatherings at facilities that provide basic community services. Previously, in 2013, the Ministry of the Interior issued a circular that restricts gatherings within 300 metres of the houses of public officials and politicians. Since 2011, the number of protests has substantially increased in Spain due to a declining economy and regressive social measures. During those protests, the media and civil society organisations reported cases where excessive force and arrests were used by the police to quell demonstrations. Allegations were also made that police had ill-treated protestors while they were in detention.