Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Spain

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1997
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Spain, 30 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3124.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997

 

Spain is a democracy with a constitutional monarch. The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. As a result of elections in March, Jose Maria Aznar of the Popular Party became Prime Minister. 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. An Ombudsman, called the "People's Defender" in the Constitution, serves as an independent advocate for citizen's rights. 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 2.3 percent in 1996. The nominal unemployment rate dropped from the 1994 high of 25 percent to 21.3 percent in July.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. However, there were problems in some areas, including police brutality, an inefficient judicial system, and investigations of past government wiretapping. 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 of such abuses.

Continued allegations surfaced of involvement by the previous Gonzalez Administration in the "Antiterrorist Liberation Groups" (GAL), which were responsible for bombings, kidnapings, and extrajudicial killings during the mid 1980's. The Supreme Court was still investigating the GAL at year's end. There were accusations that the current Government, while clearly not involved in these incidents, was engaging in a deliberate coverup by declining to release classified documents that some allege contain evidence of the previous government's involvement in the GAL.

The principal source of human rights abuses continued to be the protracted campaign of terrorism waged by the Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) separatist group, which committed killings, kidnapings, and other abuses.

Respect for Human Rights

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings by government forces.

Courts continue to investigate the "dirty war" against terrorism, during which the GAL allegedly assassinated approximately 28 people in the mid-1980's. Hearings began in 1995, and high-ranking officials continue to testify. Several cases are expected to go to trial in early 1997.

In January the Supreme Court indicted former Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo and former Secretary of State for Security Rafael Vera on charges of kidnaping, misuse of public funds, and association with an armed group in relation to the kidnaping of Segundo Marey in 1983 and the "dirty war" against ETA. They were indicted on additional charges in March. In November the Supreme Court decided not to summon to testify in this case former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, former Vice President and Defense Minister Narcis Serra, or Basque socialist leader Jose Maria Benegas.

In April a witness testified that in 1983, highly decorated Civil Guard General Enrique Galindo and former Guipuzcoa civil Governor Julen Elgorriaga entered the Palace de la Cumbre where they presumably interrogated two kidnaped men, Jose Ignacio Lasa and Jose Antonio Zabala. The bodies of Lasa and Zabala, which showed signs of torture, were identified in 1995. Two Civil Guardsmen involved in the killings were imprisoned in May, the first persons to be sentenced in the GAL investigations. Galindo was held in preventive custody for 72 days for his role in this case. Elgorriaga remains in preventive detention.

In February the ex-head of operations of the National Intelligence Agency (CESID) provided new information about the 1983 assassination in the south of France of Roman Onaederra (also known as "Kattu") by Civil Guardsman. In May Galindo and two generals were declared suspects in this case. Barrionuevo and Vera are expected to testify.

The case of the death of Mikel Zabaltza, a tram conductor who died while in police custody in 1985 after being taken from his home for alleged collaboration with terrorists, was reopened in November.

Also pending in the GAL investigations is the case of Frenchman Robert Caplanne, who was mistaken for an ETA member and murdered in 1985.

In September the Madrid daily El Mundo reported that CESID abducted a tramp and two drug addicts in July 1988 to test on them an anesthetic that CESID intended to use for the kidnaping of ETA leader Juan Antonio Urreticoechea (also known as "Josu Ternera"). El Mundo claimed that the injection of the anesthetic led to the death of one of the beggars and that CESID agents had to dispose of the body. The Defense Minister at the time and the current Defense Minister both denied the accusations; the investigation continued at year's end.

There continued to be frequent terrorist incidents. As of October, 49 attacks attributed to ETA had resulted in 5 deaths and 43 serious injuries. The Attorney General's report states that groups supporting ETA carried out 830 acts of sabotage, numerous disturbances, and attacks on persons, property, political parties, and security forces in 1995, a 300 percent increase from 1994. Actions by ETA and its affiliate groups caused millions of dollars worth of damage throughout Spain. In February then-Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez said that terrorist violence reached levels in 1995 unheard of since 1985-87.

On February 6, Basque Socialist parliamentary candidate Fernando Mugica Herzog was shot and killed by four ETA youths in San Sebastian. On February 14, the former Vice Chairman of the Constitutional Court was assassinated by three shots to the back of the head in his office at Madrid University where he served as a professor. On March 4, a car bomb killed the former head of the Basque police intelligence service, 1 day before his scheduled testimony in the trial of 15 alleged ETA members. On May 12, a bomb killed an army sergeant and narrowly missed a busload of soldiers in Cordoba. On July 26, Basque businessman Isidro Usaiaga was shot five times as he was returning home from a party. Local officials say that he had refused to pay ETA's "revolutionary tax."

On June 23, ETA announced a 1-week unilateral cease-fire. The Government said that the short cease-fire could not be taken seriously when ETA continued to hold kidnaped prison official Jose Antonio Lara (see Section 1.b.). ETA ended the cease-fire on July 1, and followed its announcement with an attack on a Civil Guard outpost in Navarra and the resumption of its annual summer campaign against selected tourist areas in the south of Spain. The campaign moved to Catalonia with a July 20 explosion at the Reus airport that injured 35 people.

The Government took several steps to deal with the ETA problem. It increased its counterterrorism efforts, joined in the creation of a European police intelligence department signing a Europe-wide extradition treaty, and sought tougher extradition rules from countries outside Europe where ETA terrorists reside. The Government offered the possibility of talks with ETA, provided that ETA renounced terrorism and made fundamental political commitments. It also sought tougher legislation to control street violence by separatists supporters.

French-Spanish cooperation led to the November arrest in Bordeaux of ETA's arms and explosives operative, Juan Maria Insausti Mugica (also known as "Karpov"); the November arrest in Bayona of ETA's chief of illegal commands, Juan Luis Agierre Lete (also known as "Patas" and "Isuntza"); and the July arrest in Pau of ETA's number three leader, Julian Achurra Egurola (also known as "Pototo"). In November France also carried out the extradition pending since 1994 of ETA leader Rosario Pikabea Ugalde (also known as "Errota"), charged in Spain with two murders. Two ETA members were also arrested in Brussels in January, and three more were detained in Venezuela in May.

In November the National High Court sentenced ETA member Henry Parot to 1,170 years' imprisonment for the bomb attack on the Civil Guard Directorate General.

b. Disappearance

Since 1970 ETA has kidnaped 76 people; between then and year's end, it is estimated that ETA has obtained more than $33 million (4 billion pesetas) from the kidnapings.

ETA released Jose Maria Aldaya Etxeburua, a 54-year-old Basque industrialist, on April 14, after holding him hostage for 341 days. This was the longest kidnaping ever by ETA, during which time thousands of people participated in hundreds of demonstrations, urging Aldaya's release. The Ministry of the Interior estimates that ETA was able to acquire more than 100 million pesetas ($800,000) from various sources for the liberation of Aldaya.

Jose Ortega Lara, a worker at the prison of Logrono, was kidnaped on January 17. Unlike other ETA kidnapings, Ortega Lara's is widely viewed as an attempt by ETA to pressure the Government into ending the dispersion of more than 500 ETA prisoners in jails around Spain and concentrating them in prisons in the Basque country. As of December Ortega Lara was still a captive.

On November 28, ETA claimed responsibility for the November 12 kidnaping of Cosme Delclaux Zubriria, a 34-year-old Vizcaya lawyer whose family is heavily involved in Basque business and finance. Family members claim that they received a letter 2 years ago "advising" that they pay ETA's "revolutionary tax," which they said they did not do. Police also now believe a misspelling of the name "Delclaux" appeared on a list of ETA targets recovered in 1987 with the arrest of ETA member Santiago Arrospide Sarasola (also known as "Sani Potros"). At year's end, Delclaux was still a captive.

c. Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such acts. Spain is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture and in 1995 approved Protocol 1 of the Strasbourg European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Penalties. Nonetheless, many detainees charged with terrorism assert that they have been abused during detention, and similar charges are sometimes made by other detainees. In March four policemen were charged with the rape and illegal detention of a Brazlian tourist.

While the situation of ETA prisoners appears to be improving, individuals, nongovernmental organizations(NGO's), and the media continue to accuse the Civil Guard of unprovoked brutality, particularly in the Basque region. According to the Spanish Association Against Torture (AAT), there were 267 accusations of torture in 1994 (latest figures available) involving 448 members of the security forces, of whom 128 were found guilty and sentenced, and 120 were found innocent. The remaining cases are still being processed.

The Madrid public prosecutor charged 14 Civil Guards of the Colmenar Viejo barracks near Madrid with torturing, injuring, annoying, and threatening 3 youths while they were detained in the barracks in October 1994. The three young men were arrested the day after a violent confrontation in a bar. The public prosecutor's report describes the injuries inflicted on the 3 detainees by the 14 Civil Guardsmen. The Civil Guard opened its own investigation into the case. The AAT filed a judicial complaint against 18 Civil Guardsmen in the case. The additional four are identified in the prosecutor's report as witnesses. The public prosecutor asked for penalties of between 4 months and 1 year in jail for the 14 it accused. The AAT asked for penalties of between 6 months and 6 years in jail for the 18 it accuses in the case.

In December 1995 the National High Court in Madrid sentenced 11 people accused of collaboration with ETA to 135 years' imprisonment. Some 50 persons had been arrested between January and May 1992, but the court ruled inadmissible a large number of the police declarations because nearly all of the detainees made detailed allegations (often supported by medical evidence) of torture. The allegations of torture were under judicial examination at year's end.

In March a judge suspended the trial of 10 Civil Guardsmen accused of the torture in 1980 of 6 detained ETA members in the jail of La Salve in Bilbao.

Prison conditions generally meet minimum international standards, and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors. In March the Government agreed to publish a medical report of a 1994 ad hoc visit by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which recognized injuries compatible with eight 1994 detainees' allegations of mistreatment. The National High Court had originally rejected complaints of mistreatment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile, and the authorities respect this provision. A suspect normally may not be held more than 72 hours without a hearing. The Penal Code permits holding a suspected terrorist an additional 2 days without a hearing or the possibility of incommunicado detention for such persons, provided that a request is granted by a judge. Many requests for extensions and incommunicado detention contain only minimal necessary details, which alarms Amnesty International. The U.N. Committee Against Torture, in its 1993 examination, raised the issue of the operation of "antiterrorist" legislation and expressed concern over incommunicado detention and the suspension of procedural rights, such as the initial denial of selection of free legal counsel.

The law on aliens permits detention of a person for up to 40 days prior to deportation but specifies that it must not take place in a prison-like setting.

In October two policemen were incarcerated for illegal detention of immigrants, extortion, drug trafficking, and robbery. Other policemen were also charged with illegal detention (see Section 1.c.).

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary is independent in practice.

The judicial structure consists of territorial, provincial, regional, and municipal courts with the Supreme Court at its apex. The Constitutional Court protects constitutional rights, but there is no clear distinction between its jurisdiction and that of the Supreme Court on some issues, nor is it clear which has ultimate authority. A National High Court handles cases involving crimes such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The European Court of Human Rights is the final arbiter in cases concerning human rights.

Over the past 2 years, Spain has almost completely overhauled its judicial system, in an effort to rectify the shortage of judges and the severe backlog of cases. A nine-person jury system was established in November 1995, and the first cases were tried in 1996. The entire Penal Code was revised and enacted in May. Changes included the restructuring of the criminal justice system, introduction of modern offenses and white-collar crimes, an increase in the penalties for fraud offenses, a rise in the legal age at which an individual may be tried for a criminal offense from 16 to 18 years of age, the establishment of other new offenses (including domestic violence and sexual harrasment), and authorizing judges to fine individuals with reference to their wealth. The new Code also allows judges more flexibility in sentencing. It eliminates the longstanding tradition of granting credits toward early release for time served for good behavior. The maximum penalty for any one offense under the new code is 25 years, and the maximum time a person can continuously serve is 30 years, regardless of the cumulative total of sentences. Judges can now deport foreigners sentenced to 6 years or less. The 1882 Criminal Procedural Law was not changed.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the authorities respect this right in practice. Defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney (at state expense for the indigent). They are released on bail unless the court has some reason to believe they may flee or be a threat to public safety. The law calls for an expeditious judicial hearing following arrest. However, the Association of Victims of Terrorism and others have protested delays in the judicial process. By law, suspects may not be confined for more than 2 years before being brought to trial, unless a further delay is authorized by a judge, who may extend pretrial custody to 4 years.

In practice pretrial custody is usually less than 1 year; however, increasing criticism is heard in legal circles that some judges use "preventive custody" as a form of anticipatory sentencing. In cases of petty crime, suspects released on bail sometimes wait up to 5 years for trial. As of December, 25.8 percent of the prison population was in jail awaiting trial.

Following conviction, defendants may appeal to the next higher court. Human rights groups such as the Association Against Torture and members of the press complain that many persons convicted of offenses constituting violations of human rights have avoided judicial sentencing by prolonging the appeals process and that sentences for persons convicted of such offenses are unduly light. According to Amnesty International, custodial sentences of less than 1 year and 1 day are customarily not served by those convicted of such offenses.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the privacy of the home and correspondence. Under the Criminal Code, government authorities must obtain court approval before searching private property, wiretapping, or interfering with private correspondence. The present antiterrorist law gives discretionary authority to the Minister of Interior to act prior to obtaining court approval in "cases of emergency."

Investigation continues into allegations of wiretapping by the National Intelligence Agency (CESID) of private telephone conversations made by the King, various ministers, and other prominent figures between 1980 and 1991. The Minister of Defense, the Vice President, and CESID's chief resigned in 1995, after related government documents were leaked to the press. The judge closed the case on February 9; however, on May 14 the provincial court revoked that action and ordered the judge to continue investigating.

CESID has also been linked to the investigations of GAL crimes (see Section 1.a.). In February the judge in one GAL investigation "found" lists of CESID documents relating to GAL in the prison cell of the ex-director of CESID operations, which were subsequently leaked to the press. Based on the lists, the judge requested 18 official secret documents from the CESID in May, which allegedly contain information about GAL crimes. The Government declined to declassify these documents. The investigating judges criticized the Government for impeding the judicial process by not declassifying the documents and stated that they would work with parliamentary representatives, public officials, and other judges to obtain the information.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government respects these provisions in practice. Opposition viewpoints, both from political parties and nonpartisan organizations, are freely aired and widely reflected in the media.

In July the dismissal of six top journalists from the state-run television network ignited controversy over whether the firings were politically motivated or driven by cost concerns (as the station management claimed). Several foreign newspapers took up the cause of the discharged journalists (all of whom had been appointed under the previous government), charging that their firings represented a threat to freedom of the press. Other foreign newspapers and the majority of the Spanish press declared that the personnel changes were "normal" in any media organization undergoing a change of top management.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, and its institutions receive official funding. Protestant and Jewish leaders refused the Government's offer of financial support.

The Government announced in June that it would make "religion" (or a similar class on "ethics") an obligatory class in public secondary educational institutions, reverting to a longstanding practice. The Spanish confederation of parents of students and some opposition political parties opposed the idea. Consequently, the Government agreed to search for a balance between the desire of the Catholic Church that religion be taught and parents' constitutional right to choose the kind of education they want for their children. A final decision had not been reached by year's end.

d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are free to travel within and outside the country, to emigrate, and to repatriate. The Government respects these rights in practice.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. A recent asylum law (passed in 1994 and modified in February 1995) brought refugee and asylum cases together and gave full power to the Office of Asylum and Refugees (OAR) (a branch of the Ministry of the Interior) to adjudicate them but also mandates that cases can be referred to the UNHCR for appeal. Asylum requests can be made only at the point of entry, and applicants are detained until the case is resolved. Negative rulings must be made within 72 hours, but the asylum seeker has an additional 24 hours in which to make an appeal. No provisions are made for detainees to have access to translators or lawyers. Since 1994 the revised law has caused a major drop in the numbers of both requests for, and grants of, asylum. From January to June, only 110 of 1,638 applications for asylum were approved. An additional 98 humanitarian asylum applications were approved.

Spain is facing an unprecedented wave of illegal immigrants coming across the Strait of Gibraltar. More than 8,000 illegal immigrants had been caught as of October, the majority in Andalucia; authorities say that under "normal" circumstances they intercept no more than 30 percent of those who enter Spain through that zone. In response, the Government is resorting to a mix of tighter border controls, liberalized treatment for those who have already established themselves in Spanish society, and increased international coordination. In July the Government sedated and forcibly repatriated 103 sub-Saharan Africans, one of whom later died during a violent demonstration in Guinea-Bissau. The repatriation stirred protests from civil libertarians and opposition political parties, as well as hunger strikes and demonstrations by the affected persons in Africa and Spain. The man who was killed in Guinea-Bissau was one of several who had applied for asylum, but whose applications never reached the proper authorities because of faults in police procedure; such deportations violated Spanish law.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change their Government

Spain is a multiparty democracy with open elections in which all citizens 18 years of age and over have the right to vote by secret ballot for Parliament and for provincial and local bodies. At all levels of government, elections are held at least every 4 years. As a result of elections held in March, the People's Party (PP) received 38 percent of the votes. Jose Maria Aznar became Prime Minister, and 14 years of Socialist government came to a close. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) followed closely with 37.5 percent of the votes. The next highest number of votes received were the United Left (IU) with 10.6 percent, the Catalan Union and Convergence Party (CIU) with 4.6 percent, and the Basque National Party with 1.3 percent.

Governmental power is shared between the central government and 17 regional "Autonomous Communities." Local nationalist parties give political expression to regional linguistic and cultural identities.

Women are increasing their participation in the political process. The number of female candidates increased in the 1996 national elections, but under the electoral system the percentage of votes won determines the number of candidates elected from the party list. Many women were placed in the lower half of the list, and as a consequence of the electoral system, the number of women elected has never reached 25 percent.

Women hold 19 percent of parliamentary seats. The 350-member Chamber of Deputies has 72 female representatives (22 percent of the total), and the 256-member Senate has 27 (10.4 percent of the total). There are 1,529 mayors (6.5 percent of the total), and 224 women in regional parliaments (19 percent of the total). Of all judges, 30 percent are women (a profession that was closed to women before 1977), but no women hold Supreme Court positions. The Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, Education and Culture, and Environment are women.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of nongovernmental human rights groups, including the Human Rights Association of Spain in Madrid and the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia in Barcelona, operate freely without government interference. The Government cooperates readily with international organizations investigating allegations of human rights abuses (such as the European Commission of Human Rights) and international nongovernmental human rights groups, as well as with independent national groups.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens and provides for an Ombudsman, called the "People's Defender", who actively investigates complaints of human rights abuses by the authorities. The Ombudsman operates independently from any party or government ministry, must be elected every 5 years by a three-fifths majority of Congress, and is immune from prosecution. He has complete access to government institutions and documents not classified secret for national security reasons. The office of the people's defender received 13,214 complaints in 1995 and an estimated 22,000 complaints in 1996. While the majority of the complaints pertained to education and social services, there were increases in complaints of racism and mistreatment by law enforcement agencies.

Women

Sexual abuse, violence, and the harassment of women in the workplace continued to be areas of concern. The Women's Institute in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reports that 47 women were killed by their male partners and that 1,863 rapes were reported in 1995. Police received 16,000 calls concerning abuse in 1995, 3,400 from Madrid. However, experts believe that only 10 percent of violent acts against women each year are reported to authorities. Some women's NGO's estimate that about 600,000 to 800,000 cases of abuse occur each year.

A 1989 law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but very few cases have been brought to trial under this law.

Several levels of government provide assistance to battered women. A toll-free hot line advises women where to go for government shelter or other aid if mistreated. There are 54 official centers for mistreated women. The Government also runs educational programs seeking to change public attitudes that contribute to violence against women. The Women's Institute has charged that some judges are reluctant to get involved in cases of violence against women by members of their family. Similarly, in smaller towns some police officers have been reluctant to accept complaints from battered women. Recognizing the latter problem, the Ministry of the Interior initiated a program in 1986 that created special sections within the police department to deal with violence against women, staffed by trained female officers. In March the community of Madrid cut spending for women's organizations by 9 percent, paralyzing more than 1,000 women's programs until 1997.

In recent years, women have moved towards equality under the law, and there are larger numbers of women in the educational system and work force. According to the organization Active Population, women received 58 percent of university degrees in 1995. The Minister of Social Affairs in January claimed that women now constitute 43 percent of the work force. Women outnumber men in the legal, journalistic, and health care professions, but still play minor roles in many fields.

The law mandates equal pay for equal work. However, according to a report by the Economic and Social Council in April, women's salaries still remain 27 percent lower than those of their male counterparts. The Council claims that women are more apt to have temporary contracts and part-time employment than men. The National Association of Rural Women and Families (ANFAR) claimed in 1995 that 80 percent of rural women are not formally employed but instead aid their husbands in farming or fishing. ANFAR said that these women lack titles to family enterprises and do not receive the same social security benefits as the male head of household.

Children

The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's welfare through well-funded and easily accessed programs of education and health care. The Constitution obligates both the State and parents to protect children, whether or not born in wedlock. The Ministries of Health and Social Affairs are responsible for the welfare of children and have created numerous programs to aid needy children. Numerous NGO's exist to further children's rights. For example, the school help program for the protection of children has a team of experts who work with educators to help them identify abused or abandoned children in the classroom.

The 1995 Law of the Child gives legal rights of testimony to minors in child abuse cases; it also obliges all citizens to act on cases of suspected child abuse and, for the first time, sets up rules regarding foreign adoptions. A 1987 signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention, Spain voted in 1995 to withdraw the reservations it held previously in regard to the protection of minors; the treaty's provisions now apply to all children in Spain, not just those who are Spanish citizens.

Under the new Penal Code, children under the age of 18 are not considered responsible for their actions and cannot be sent to prison. The seriousness of the violent acts in the Basque country by separatist youths, however, has led to accelerated negotiations between the central Government and the Basque government for the punishment of youthful offenders under age 18. Public debate centers on whether the age of responsibility should be set as low as 12 years. The Attorney General's report in September highlighted a 300 percent increase in youth vandalism in the Basque country since 1994.

A new penitentiary law passed this year lowered the age that a child can remain with an incarcerated mother from 6 to 3 years of age. It also provides a special unit for mothers with children, a kindergarten, psychological support, and ways for children to get out of prison regularly. Currently 169 children live in jails with their mothers under this law.

People with Disabilities

The Constitution obliges the State to provide for the adequate treatment and care of people with disabilities, ensuring that they are not deprived of basic rights that apply to all citizens. Since 1982, a law on the integration of disabled citizens has been in effect, which aims to ensure fair access to public employment, prevent disability, and facilitate physical accessibility to public facilities and transportation. The national law serves as a guide for regional laws; however, levels of assistance and accessibility differ from region to region and have not improved in many areas.

The 1996 Penal Code continues to allow parents or legal representatives of a mentally disabled person to petition a judge to obtain permission for the sterilization of that person. In 1994 the Constitutional Court held that sterilization of the mentally infirm does not constitute a violation of the Constitution. In practice many courts have authorized such surgery. Religious groups continue to protest this ruling.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Roma, who make up 3 percent of the population, continue to suffer discrimination in housing, schools, and jobs. Since 1991 the Madrid city government, in cooperation with the autonomous regional government, has been carrying out a program to relocate squatters (the great majority of whom are Roma) to housing projects in the region. A University of Navarra estimate indicates that 12,000 squatters live in camps at the margins of Madrid, although the Madrid public works councilor states that there has never been a reliable census of squatters. The daily El Pais reported in March that 16 prefabricated houses exist around Madrid for the "Chabolistas," with 140 more houses planned. The city government plans to relocate 449 of the 769 families of squatters in and around Madrid by 1998. Spain's largest Romani organization, Gypsy Presence, complains that the city has put up police checkpoints and fences that make Romani communities resemble prison camps. The group's complaint that such relocation areas lack basic services is supported by NGO's and the press. The city government denies any anti-Romani bias in its actions. In May, 31 illegal families destroyed their "houses" so that they would not be counted in the 1996 census and forced to relocate.

Six of the 17 autonomous communities use a language or dialect other than Castillian Spanish. The Constitution stipulates that citizens have "the duty to know" Castillian, which is the "official language of the state", but it adds that other languages can also be official under regional statutes and that the "different language variations of Spain are a cultural heritage which shall...be protected." Catalonia has passed a law whereby Catalan is taught in regional schools and used at official regional functions. Suits regarding specific applications of this law are pending in various courts. Both Galicia and Valencia have laws stating the duty to "promote" their regional languages in schools and at official functions.

In 1995 Congress modified the Penal Code to make it a crime to "incite, publicize, or otherwise promote the abuse or discrimination of people or groups because of race, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, or religious beliefs." No cases have been tried under the modified Penal Code.

Human rights groups and the media continued to give increasing attention to discrimination against the growing numbers of illegal immigrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa (see Section 1.d.). According to the Youth Institute in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, 91 percent of persons under the age of 29 would like to see immigration further restricted. Although only 1.3 percent of the population is foreign born and the Government reduced the number of work permits issued to foreigners by 10 percent in 1995, 60 percent of the respondents under 29 years old in a July Youth Institute survey said that they believed immigrants caused employment problems for them. The association of Moroccan immigrant laborers has offices in Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville to combat anti-Moroccan racism, and Madrid has a special administrative office to deal with immigrant complaints.

There may be a connection between opinions on immigration and the increasing number of race-related incidents being reported. Quasi-organized rightwing youth groups (called "skinheads" by the press) continued to commit violent acts throughout the year, terrorizing minorities, and in some instances, committing murder. National police estimate the total number of skinheads to be several thousand; however, they say that the skinheads are not organized to plan specific actions. SOS Racismo, an NGO, said that race-related violence increased in 1995, due in part to the reduction in police arrests and incarcerations of skinheads.

In May skinhead Oscar Hernandez Bernal was tried in Barcelona for racist comments and defense of the expulsion of African immigrants in a newspaper interview in 1993. Other incidents included an attack on a black immigrant by skinheads in Madrid which was stopped by the shouts of a 60-year-old woman, and the beating in Madrid of a Moroccan man by six skinheads who did not like the color of his skin.

Skinheads and ultra-right groups also attacked young radical-left supporters, Arabs, punks, homosexuals, and homeless persons. In April two skinheads received a 3-year sentence for publicly stating their opinion on television that killing transvestites did not constitute wrongdoing. In March five neo-Nazis were sentenced to a total of 12 years in jail for severely beating a youth for his leftist opinions. In September seven skinheads were detained for kidnaping, robbing, and beating a 22-year-old man in Barcelona. Perhaps the most widely publicized case was the murder of David Gonzalez in January, who was stabbed in the heart by Madrid skinheads. As a consequence, the President of the Madrid autonomous region, together with nine women and one man whose children had been brutally attacked (and in three cases, killed) by ultraright bands, launched an initiative in April to end the violence.

In May three of nine accused persons were sentenced to 7 total years in jail for the murder of a Polish citizen outside Madrid in 1990. The other six were declared innocent.

U.S. citizens regularly complain of discrimination and abuse by authorities and, more frequently, by ordinary citizens. Women and U.S. citizens of African and Latin American origin are those most frequently victimized.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers, except those in the military services, judges, magistrates, and prosecutors, are entitled to form or join unions of their own choosing. All that is required to organize a trade union is that more than two workers register with the Minister of Labor and Social Security. Spain has over 200 registered trade unions and 1 not legally registered (because the Constitutional Court ruled that it was ineligible, since it represents military personnel).

Under the Constitution, trade unions are free to choose their representatives, determine their policies, represent their members' interests, and strike. They are not restricted or harassed by the Government and are independent of political parties. A strike in nonessential services is legal if its sponsors give 5 days' notice. Any striking union must respect minimum service requirements negotiated with the respective employer. The right to strike has been interpreted by the Constitutional Court to include general strikes called to protest government policy. Strikes occur frequently, but most are brief. From January to April, there were 166,700 absent workers due to strikes, a 70 percent drop from the same period in 1995. In the first 3 months of 1996, the Labor Ministry reported that there were 277 strikes, in which 86,900 workers participated, compared with strikes by 190,900 workers for the same period last year.

The Government is reforming the labor and social security regime, particularly the pension system. On September 20, a preagreement on pension reform was signed between the Government and labor. Although trade unions have signed this agreement, they have not ruled out supporting the public employee confederations in protesting the government plan to save approximately $1.6 billion (200 billion pesetas) by freezing public employees' salaries through 1997. The trade unions have planned a number of actions in response to the salary freeze plan, including filing complaints with the International Labor Organization, lobbying Congress to protect employees' right to collective action, and holding demonstrations and strikes.

Unions are free to form or join federations and affiliate with international bodies and do so without hindrance.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

A 1980 statute undergirds the right to organize and bargain collectively. Trade union and collective bargaining rights were extended in 1986 to all workers in the public sector, except military personnel. Public sector collective bargaining in 1990 was broadened to include salaries and employment levels, but the Government retained the right to set these if negotiations failed. Collective bargaining agreements are widespread in both the public and private sectors; in the latter they cover 60 percent of workers, notwithstanding that only about 15 percent of workers are actually union members.

The law prohibits discrimination by employers against trade union members and organizers. Discrimination cases have priority in the labor courts. Legislation in 1990 gave unions a role in controlling temporary work contracts to prevent abuse of these and of termination actions. Nonetheless, unions contend that employers discriminate in many cases by refusing to renew temporary contracts of workers engaging in union organizing. More than one-third of all employees are under temporary contracts, and the number is growing.

Labor regulations and practices in free trade zones and export processing zones are the same as in the rest of the country. Union membership in these zones is reportedly higher than the average throughout the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is outlawed and is not practiced. The legislation is effectively enforced.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The statutory minimum age for the employment of children is 16 years. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is primarily responsible for enforcement. The minimum age is effectively enforced in major industries and in the service sector. It is more difficult to control on small farms and in family-owned businesses. Legislation prohibiting child labor is effectively enforced in the special economic zones. The law also prohibits the employment of persons under the age of 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legal minimum wage for workers over 18 years of age is considered sufficient for a decent standard of living. The daily national minimum wage rate in 1996 was $18.03 (2,164 pesetas); for those 16 and 17 years of age it was $13.95 (1674 pesetas). These rates are revised every year in line with the consumer price index and are effectively enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The law sets a 40-hour workweek with an unbroken rest period of 36 hours after each 40 hours worked. Workers enjoy 12 paid holidays a year and a month's paid vacation.

Government mechanisms exist for enforcing working conditions and occupational health and safety rules, but bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and inefficient. Safety and health legislation is being revised to conform to European Union (EU) directives. The Law to Prevent Labor Risks was passed in 1995 by Parliament as the foundation for the completion of the rest of the EU directives. The National Institute of Safety and Health in the Ministry of Labor has technical responsibility for developing labor standards, but the Inspectorate of Labor has responsibility for enforcing the legislation through judicial action when infractions are found. Workers have legal protection for filing complaints about hazardous conditions.

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