Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2006 - Spain

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 23 May 2006
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006 - Spain, 23 May 2006, available at: [accessed 13 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.

Special courts were established to protect women from violence, but the law still failed to require the state to initiate investigations and prosecutions when violent crimes were committed in the home. While migrants already living in Spain were offered the opportunity to regularize their residency, most of those who succeeded in crossing Spain's southern borders in North Africa and the Canary Islands were denied assistance to seek asylum. Many were unlawfully expelled. At least 13 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa died and scores were injured trying to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa, most reportedly as a result of excessive force or ill-treatment by the Spanish and Moroccan security forces. Conditions in some detention centres for minors were so poor as to amount to "institutional ill-treatment".


The Basque armed group Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) claimed responsibility for 24 attacks on business and tourist interests in Spain during 2005. In most cases, it used small explosive devices, causing minor injuries and damage to property. At least 42 people were injured at a convention centre in Madrid on 9 February, including at least five police officers, when a car bomb exploded hours before a scheduled visit by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. ETA had given a 30-minute warning by telephone to a newspaper. On 25 May, a car bomb planted by ETA in a Madrid street left 52 people injured. On 21 November a mass trial of 56 defendants (initiated in 1998 by judge Baltasar Garzón) opened before the National Criminal Court. The defendants were accused of being members of groups that provided financial, informational, political and other support to ETA.

On 17 May the lower chamber of parliament authorized the government to open talks with ETA if it abandoned its armed struggle.

On 7 February a programme was launched to grant amnesty to up to 800,000 undocumented migrants. Under regulations introduced in December 2004, migrants who could prove they were in Spain before August 2004, and who had a job contract and no criminal record, had three months to sign up as taxpayers and obtain rights of residence.

On 30 June parliament passed a law allowing same-sex marriages. The new law also gave all married same-sex couples the rights of inheritance previously allowed only to married men and women, and the right to adopt children.

On 9 November the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights presented the report on his March visit to Spain. He criticized the restriction that prevented lawyers interviewing some prisoners in private and the mechanisms for compensating victims of torture or ill-treatment.

In December Spain ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it had signed in April.

Violence against women

In January a law on gender-based violence, adopted in December 2004, came into force. The law sought to bring together in a single instrument measures to prevent, assist and protect victims of violence as well as measures to prosecute, investigate and punish any offence committed. The law ensured the right for victims who lodge formal complaints to receive comprehensive assistance, including legal aid and access to health services and housing. For the first time, the law recognized that there are certain groups of women who are at greater risk of suffering gender-based violence.

In June, 17 courts dedicated solely to cases of gender-based violence began hearing cases, with an additional 433 courts empowered to hear domestic abuse cases. However, while strengthening protections against violence in the family, implementation of the new law was not as effective as had been hoped, resulting in an additional burden placed on the victim to actively pursue their formal complaint and demand formal measures for their own protection be set in motion. Further, only 5 per cent of women who suffered gender-based violence registered complaints, and many of those faced indifference by government authorities or suffered insensitive interrogations discouraging them from pursuing their case.

Survivors of domestic violence continued to experience considerable obstacles in obtaining assistance, protection and justice. Prejudice and discriminatory practices in public institutions and a lack of coordination between responsible government bodies increased the impediments for the most vulnerable groups, particularly undocumented migrant women, Roma women, and women with disabilities, mental disorders or addictions.

During 2005 the Ministry of the Interior introduced a protocol that provided, in conjunction with the Law on Aliens, that the immigration authorities should proceed with administrative sanctions and expulsion proceedings in the case of female irregular migrants who had sought protection as victims of gender-based violence after their claims were registered. In November, AI asked for the protocol to be withdrawn on the grounds that it constituted unlawful discrimination.

Killing and ill-treatment of migrants

People fleeing violence, injustice and deprivation who succeeded in crossing Spain's southern borders in North Africa, the Canary Islands and Andalusia continued to face obstacles in accessing asylum processes. Asylum-seekers were denied the necessary guidance and legal support. In Ceuta and Melilla, migrants were held in overcrowded holding centres and many were unlawfully returned to Morocco.

Harassment of migrants in unofficial camps in Morocco and moves to raise the height of perimeter fencing around Ceuta and Melilla prompted mass attempts to cross the border into Spanish territory from late August. At least 13 migrants died and scores were injured, many of them reportedly as a result of excessive force or ill-treatment by Spanish and Moroccan security forces. Despite President Zapatero's announcement of a joint investigation by the authorities in both countries, this appeared not to have started by the end of 2005.

In late September, Spanish authorities deployed 480 additional soldiers to guard the borders. During that same period, nearly 2,000 migrants and asylum-seekers who succeeded in entering Ceuta and Melilla were held in temporary holding facilities. Others were unlawfully expelled. In October, the Moroccan authorities reportedly bussed hundreds of men, women and children to the border with Algeria. In that same month, the international aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières reported finding more than 500 migrants, some handcuffed together, abandoned in the desert by the Moroccan authorities without food or water.

  • Ayukabang Joseph Abunaw, aged 31, was reportedly killed when forces of the Civil Guard fired rubber bullets at close range at several hundred migrants climbing over perimeter fencing at Melilla at about 3am on 29 August. Eyewitnesses said that Civil Guard officers beat Ayukabang Joseph Abunaw with rifle butts and dragged him back into Moroccan territory. He reportedly died several hours later. Médecins Sans Frontières, in a preliminary examination, found a bruise on his chest typical of injuries caused by rubber bullets. According to an autopsy by the Moroccan authorities, the cause of death was internal bleeding from an injury to the liver.
  • Four men from sub-Saharan Africa died and several others were seriously injured during the night of 28 September when several hundred people were confronted by Spanish and Moroccan security forces as they climbed razor-wire fencing around Ceuta. According to reports, two bodies on the Spanish side and two on the Moroccan side all had bullet wounds. The Civil Guard said bullets in the bodies on Spanish territory were not of the type used by their forces.
  • On 28 December 2004, several people were illegally expelled, including asylum-seekers who had already entered Spain, one of whom was a 15-year-old minor from Guinea Conakry who suffered abuse. In May 2005 the Interior Ministry admitted that the minor had been summarily expelled because he was found between the two fences in Ceuta.

Use of tasers: death in custody

In February the Civil Guard stated that taser guns and other electro-shock weapons were not in official use. The Interior Ministry said in April that no such weapon had been acquired, but conceded that "there [were] no specific rules regulating the possible abuses of this type of weapon".

However, such weapons were reported to have been imported and used by the Civil Guard Special Intervention Unit, and local police forces in the Canary Islands, Espartinas (Seville) and Alcalà de Xivert (Castellón). One detainee allegedly died as a result of excessive force that included inappropriate use of a taser.

  • Juan Martínez Galdeano died while detained by the Civil Guard in Roquetas de Mar (Almería) on 24 July. An internal investigation reported that closed circuit television footage showed that a baton and a taser had been used to restrain him. An autopsy revealed a causal link between the detainee's death from "acute respiratory or cardio-respiratory insufficiency" and his treatment in detention. He had cuffs on both hands and feet, and his body bore numerous injuries consistent with being struck by a baton. Two officers were indicted on charges including causing death by negligence and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Ill-treatment of minors in detention

Concerns about the conditions in detention centres for minors were raised in a report of the national Ombudsperson. The decrepit and unhealthy state of many centres did not comply with national law and regulations on the imprisonment of children. The Educational Centre for Child Offenders in Melilla was recommended for immediate closure in the report. It had a dilapidated structure, small and poorly lit cells, and only one small outdoor courtyard. Conditions in child detention facilities around Madrid were little better. They were overcrowded, had poor sanitary facilities and lacked basic furniture such as beds and tables.

In April the Ombudsperson for the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands condemned "institutional ill-treatment" of minors in the Canary Islands. In June the first assistant to the national Ombudsperson requested the immediate closure of the detention centre in Gáldar on Gran Canaria, where conditions were particularly insanitary. The same recommendation was made by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights.

Universal jurisdiction

Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentine former naval officer who had admitted to being aboard planes carrying detainees who were drugged, stripped naked and thrown into the sea during the military governments in Argentina, was convicted in Spain in April on charges that included crimes against humanity (see Argentina entry). He was sentenced to 640 years' imprisonment.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court in Spain in September opened the way for former Guatemalan President Rios Montt and other former military officers to be tried for human rights violations (see Guatemala entry).

Victims of the Civil War and Francoism

The government failed to present a report on the situation of victims of the 1936-39 civil war and of Francoism, despite the 2004 request by parliament for the authorities to submit such a report to allow reparations for the victims. An inter-ministerial commission had been set up in November 2004 to this end. In December 2005 President Zapatero promised to present the results of the commission's work within six months.

AI country visits

In May and October AI delegates visited Spain to carry out research and to raise with government officials concerns about violence against women in the home and the treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers, particularly in Ceuta and Melilla.

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