Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 12:06 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2008 - Spain

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Spain, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
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.


Head of State: King Juan Carlos I de Borbón
Head of government: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 43.6 million
Life expectancy: 80.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/5 per 1,000

Reports of human rights violations by law enforcement officers and subsequent impunity continued to be widespread. Asylum-seekers and migrants were denied access to Spanish territory and processed in extra-territorial centres in conditions that did not comply with international standards. Unaccompanied minors were expelled without adequate guarantees for their safety. Victims of domestic violence continued to face obstacles in obtaining protection, justice and reparation, with migrant women facing additional difficulties in accessing essential resources. The armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) declared its "permanent ceasefire" over in June and resumed bomb attacks.

Police and security forces

Torture and other ill-treatment

Reports of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officers continued to be widespread. Law enforcement bodies and judicial authorities failed to investigate such cases in line with international standards, leading to effective impunity.

  • During investigations into the case of 22 people arrested in January 2006 on terrorism-related charges, several detainees told the investigating judge that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by Civil Guard agents while held incommunicado. No criminal investigation into these claims was known to have been made by the end of the year.
  • Three Civil Guard officers were convicted on 27 April of offences relating to the death in custody of Juan Martínez Galdeano at the Roquetas de Mar police station on 24 July 2005. The commanding officer, José Manuel Rivas, was convicted of minor assault and degrading treatment. He was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, three years' disqualification from office and a fine. Two other officers were convicted of injury and abuse of authority, and fined. Five officers were acquitted. The prosecution and the defence both lodged appeals.
  • On 19 July a Ghanaian man, Courage Washington, was seriously injured in a shooting incident at Madrid's Barajas airport. Two police officers dressed in civilian clothes approached Courage Washington and asked for his identity papers. It was alleged that Courage Washington, who suffers from mental health difficulties, took a toy gun from his pocket and the police officers shot him four times. According to witnesses, some shots were fired after Courage Washington had fallen to the ground. A criminal investigation was subsequently launched against Courage Washington for assault on a public agent. His lawyer lodged a complaint against the police.


Several law enforcement agencies announced their acquisition of electro-shock taser weapons, and they were already in use by local police forces in at least three of the Autonomous Communities. The National Police and Civil Guard do not use them. There was insufficient regulation and control regarding the possession and use of such weapons by law enforcement officers.


Abuses during deportation

In July the Interior Ministry announced a new draft protocol for the National Police and Civil Guard on the safe repatriation of detainees, including irregular migrants. However, it did not adequately reflect relevant European human rights standards or the recommendations of international organizations relating to the use of force and immobilization techniques by law enforcement officers during expulsions. The protocol included "reinforced tape", "immobilizing belts and clothes" and "protective helmets" on the list of materials approved for use in expulsions, which may violate the international prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and risk causing asphyxia or other serious physical harm to the person being forcibly deported.

  • On 9 June Nigerian citizen Osamuyia Akpitaye died during an attempt to forcibly deport him. According to witnesses, the two law enforcement officers accompanying him on the flight from Madrid to Lagos tied his feet and hands and gagged his mouth, allegedly with adhesive tape, to counteract his resistance to being deported. Osamuyia Akpitaye died shortly after take-off. An autopsy determined the cause of death as asphyxiation.

Extra-territorial procedures

Many rescue operations were conducted by the Spanish authorities to save migrants and asylum-seekers in danger as they attempted to reach Europe by sea. However, the rights of many were violated in interception and extra-territorial processing procedures. The conditions of detention and rights of access to asylum procedures of those detained in extra-territorial processing centres did not comply with international standards.

  • On 30 January, the Spanish sea rescue service intercepted Marine I, which had 369 people aboard. The passengers, believed to be from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, were travelling to the Canary Islands. The Spanish rescue service assisted the boat to a position 12 miles off the coast of Mauritania. The boat remained stranded there for almost two weeks until the Mauritanian and Spanish authorities agreed on 12 February to allow the boat to land in Mauritania. Part of the agreement allowed the Spanish authorities to manage the welfare and processing of the migrants and asylum-seekers in Mauritania. The Spanish authorities agreed to process the asylum claims of 10 Sri Lankans on board, who were transferred to the Canary Islands along with 25 others. However, despite a positive report from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the asylum claims were not admitted into the Spanish asylum procedure and all 10 individuals were deported on 25 March. In April it was reported that of the 369 people aboard Marine I, 35 were returned to Guinea, 161 to India and 115 to Pakistan. Twenty-three reportedly remained in a hangar in Mauritania under the effective control of Spanish authorities in conditions of detention that did not comply with Spanish law. On 18 May, 17 of them were transferred to a detention centre under Mauritanian jurisdiction, and in June they were returned to Pakistan. The remaining six were transferred to Melilla (Spain) to receive psychological treatment as a result of their experience in detention.
  • In March a boat, Happy Day, carrying 260 irregular migrants from Senegal to the Canary Islands, was intercepted by an Italian vessel operating as part of the EU border agency, Frontex, under Spanish guidance. Following disputes between Spain, Senegal and Guinea (believed to be the boat's original departure point), the 260 people spent a week on the boat anchored at Kamsar in Guinea as the Guinean authorities refused to allow them to disembark. Amnesty International was unable to trace what happened to the migrants after this point.

Unaccompanied minors

Family reunification of unaccompanied minors failed to guarantee that the best interests of the child were adequately taken into account. Unaccompanied minors were expelled to Morocco without adequate guarantees for their safety.

Law on Aliens

In November the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional provisions in the 2000 Law on Aliens that restrict migrants' rights of association, access to basic education and free legal assistance.

Violence against women

Women continued to face obstacles in obtaining protection, justice and reparation two years after the law against gender-based violence was introduced. Key provisions of the law were still being developed or were being implemented too slowly. However, some positive measures were introduced, such as a protocol for health workers dealing with victims of domestic violence. The number of women killed by their partner or former partner reached 71 in 2007. Of these, 48 were foreign nationals. Migrant women remained particularly vulnerable to violence as they continued to suffer discrimination in law and practice when trying to access justice and essential resources such as financial assistance, psychological treatment and access to shelters.

On 22 March legislation was approved extending refugee status to women fleeing gender-based persecution.

Armed groups

Following the end of its "permanent ceasefire", ETA resumed attacks in Spain. The ceasefire, effectively broken on 30 December 2006 by a bomb attack on Madrid's Barajas airport which killed two people, was officially declared over on 5 June 2007. On 24 August a car bomb exploded outside the Civil Guard station in Durango in the Basque Country, causing damage to property but no casualties. On 9 October the bodyguard of a Basque councillor was injured in a further bomb attack. On 1 December, two unarmed Spanish Civil Guard officers were shot and killed by suspected ETA members in Capbreton, France. A man and a woman were arrested and charged with murder; a third suspect escaped.


On 4 October, 22 people believed to be involved in the directorship of the Basque political party Batasuna, banned in 2003 under the Law on Political Parties, were arrested at a meeting on the grounds of membership of a terrorist organization.

On 19 December the National Criminal Court issued its sentence in relation to the so-called Macroproceso 18/98 trial, in which 47 people were convicted of membership of, or various degrees of collaboration with, ETA as a result of their work with various Basque nationalist organizations. The sentence stated that the organizations constituted a part of ETA and/or received instructions from it. Appeals against the sentence were pending at the end of the year. Several of those convicted had publicly stated their opposition to ETA and the use of violence for political ends.

'War on terror'

Allegations about the involvement of Spanish police in interrogations of detainees at the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay between 2002 and 2005 came to light in early 2007. Responding to inquiries by Amnesty International, the Interior Ministry confirmed that two visits by Spanish police to Guantánamo Bay had taken place, in July 2002 and February 2004.

On 19 December, three former UK residents detained at Guantánamo Bay were released and returned to the UK. Two of the men, Jamil El Banna and Omar Deghayes, appeared in court on 20 December in a preliminary hearing in connection with an extradition request issued by Spain on terrorism-related charges. The men opposed the request. A decision was pending at the end of the year.

At least 50 CIA-operated flights travelling to or from Guantánamo Bay stopped in or flew over Spanish territory between 2002 and 2007, according to media reports citing information from the Spanish Airport and Air Navigation Institution. The last known was in February 2007. In some cases, planes landed at military bases also used by US forces. The information was passed to the judge investigating suspected CIA flights via Spain that were involved in renditions – illegal transfers of suspects between countries. It was alleged that the government had knowledge of these flights, but did not mention them to the Spanish parliament despite its request for all available information on this topic in April 2006, or to investigators from the Council of Europe and European Parliament.

The trial began in February of 28 people accused of involvement in the 11 March 2004 attacks on commuter trains in Madrid. In October the national criminal court convicted 21 of them and acquitted seven. Three men were sentenced to 42,000 years' imprisonment.


In November parliament passed a law concerning the victims of Francoism and the 1936-39 civil war. Despite some positive features, the law fell short of international standards on the rights to a remedy and reparations for the victims of gross human rights violations.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Spain in February, March, June and November.
  • Spain: Adding insult to injury – the effective impunity of police officers in cases of torture and other ill treatment (EUR 41/006/007)
  • Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2007 (EUR 01/010/2007)
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