U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Spain
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Spain, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1d10.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SPAINSpain is a democracy with a constitutional monarch. The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. President Jose Maria Aznar of the Popular Party (PP) was elected in 1996. The Government respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary in practice. Spain has three levels of security forces. The National Police are responsible for nationwide investigations, security in urban areas, traffic control, and hostage rescue. The Civil Guard polices rural areas and controls borders and highways. Autonomous police forces have taken over many of the duties of the Civil Guard in Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque country. The security forces are under the effective control of the Government. The security forces also maintain anticorruption units. An adviser for human rights in the Ministry of Justice is charged with promoting humanitarian law and training senior law enforcement groups in human rights practices. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The economy is market based, with primary reliance on private initiative, although a number of public sector enterprises remain in key areas. The economy grew by 3.4 percent in 1997. The nominal unemployment rate dropped from the 1996 high of 21.9 percent to 21 percent in 1997. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. However, there were problems in some areas, including police brutality, lengthy pretrial detention, and an inefficient judicial system. An Ombudsman, called the "People's Defender" in the Constitution, serves as an independent advocate for citizen's rights. Societal violence against women, discrimination against Roma, and incidents of racism and rightwing youth violence are also problems. The Government investigates allegations of human rights abuses by the security forces and punishes those found guilty, although investigations are often lengthy and punishments can be light. Continued allegations surfaced of involvement by the previous Gonzalez administration in "Antiterrorist Liberation Groups" (GAL), which murdered 27 people between 1983 and 1987. This secret organization was reportedly composed of security officers and contract gunmen with links to organized crime. It is believed to have had links to the highest ministerial levels, including a former Minister of the Interior, the commanding officer of the security forces, and the most senior government representative in the Basque region. Judicial investigations into these allegations proceeded throughout the year but did not turn up any significant new evidence. These investigations could lead to trials of former senior officials on GAL-related charges. The principal source of abuses continued to be the protracted campaign of terrorism waged by the Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) terrorist group, which committed killings, kidnapings, and other abuses.