Head of state: King Juan Carlos I de Borbón
Head of government: Mariano Rajoy (replaced José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in December)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 46.5 million
Life expectancy: 81.4 years
Under-5 mortality: 4.1 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 97.7 per cent

There were reports of the police using excessive force during demonstrations. Spain maintained the regime of incommunicado detention for those suspected of terrorism-related offences. People belonging to ethnic minorities were targeted for identity checks. The armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna announced the end of the armed struggle.


On 10 January, the armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) unilaterally declared a permanent and general ceasefire. On 20 October, ETA announced the end of its armed struggle.

Demonstrations by the so-called 15M or "Indignados" movement took place in cities all over Spain starting on 15 May. Demonstrators demanded changes in the political and economic systems, and in social policies including employment, education and health.

On 20 November, the conservative Popular Party won the general elections by an absolute majority, and in December Mariano Rajoy was elected Prime Minister.

Torture and other ill-treatment

There were allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials during demonstrations by the 15M movement across Spain between May and August.

  • On 27 May, riot police officers of the autonomous Catalan police force intervened to disperse demonstrators from Catalonia Square in Barcelona. Medical evidence and video footage corroborated reports that riot police hit apparently peaceful demonstrators with their batons and fired rubber bullets at them. The police officers did not appear to wear identification numbers on their uniform. On 8 June, the Catalan government stated that no inquiry into the allegations of excessive use of force was necessary.

  • Angela Jaramillo reported that while she stood alone, close to the demonstration in Calle Castellana in Madrid on 4 August, a riot police officer hit her in the face and on the legs. Another woman who assisted Angela Jaramillo said she was also repeatedly hit with batons by riot police and suffered injuries on her neck, hip and legs. Both filed complaints against the police the following day.

  • On 17 October, the High Court of Barcelona sentenced two municipal police officers to 27 months' imprisonment for the torture of a student from Trinidad and Tobago in September 2006. The same two police officers had been involved in another incident earlier in 2006, and three other men had filed complaints of ill-treatment against them, but investigations into those allegations had been closed in July 2007.

In January, the Catalan government abolished the Code of Police Ethics, which had implemented the European Code of Police Ethics. The Police Ethics Committee, which was mandated to receive and examine complaints from individuals about police conduct and to assess police compliance with the Code of Police Ethics, was suspended after most of its members resigned.

  • At the end of the year, two police officers, charged with killing Osamuyia Akpitaye while he was being forcibly deported from Spain in June 2007, had not been put on trial.

  • In November, the Supreme Court acquitted four civil guards convicted by the Criminal Court of Guipúzcoa in December 2010 for torturing Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola while they were in police custody on 6 January 2008.

  • Ali Aarrass, a Moroccan/Belgian national suspected of terrorism-related offences in Morocco, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in Rabat in November. He had been extradited from Spain to Morocco in December 2010 in breach of interim measures ordered by the UN Human Rights Committee, after which his lawyers in Belgium repeatedly alleged that the Moroccan security services tortured him during interrogation and that he did not receive a fair trial. A complaint before the Human Rights Committee against Spain was still pending at the end of the year.

  • Mohamed Zaher Asade and Hasan Alhusein, two Syrian nationals released from prison in September 2010 after completing eight-year sentences for terrorism-related offences, remained under threat of expulsion to Syria despite facing a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment there. Mohamed Zaher Asade had lodged an appeal against his expulsion, but his request to suspend the enforcement of his expulsion pending a final decision was dismissed. An expulsion order issued against Hasan Alhusein in August was pending at the end of the year.

Counter-terror and security – incommunicado detention

Spain continued to disregard calls by international human rights bodies to abolish the use of incommunicado detention for those suspected of terrorism-related offences. The regime allowed detainees to be held for up to 13 days, during which time they did not have access to a lawyer of their choice, could not consult their state-appointed lawyer in private, did not have access to a doctor of their choice and could not have their family informed of their whereabouts.

  • In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Beristain Ukar v. Spain that Spain had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. It had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment by Aritz Beristain Ukar while he was held in incommunicado detention in September 2002.

  • On 15 February, the Supreme Court acquitted Mohamed Fahsi of belonging to a terrorist organization and ordered an investigation into his allegations that he was tortured while detained incommunicado for four days in January 2006.

  • On 25 January, the Madrid district court ordered a court investigation into the complaint by Maria Mercedes Alcocer of torture during her incommunicado detention in December 2008. On 30 May 2011, the Supreme Court overturned Maria Mercedes Alcocer's conviction of collaborating with an armed group, as the only evidence against her had been a statement she made while held incommunicado.

Racism and discrimination

People belonging to ethnic minorities continued to be targeted for discriminatory identity checks, and civil society activists observing those checks faced judicial proceedings for obstructing the work of the police. In March, the UN CERD Committee urged Spain to stop the practice of identity checks based on ethnic or racial profiling, but at the end of the year the authorities continued to deny the practice and no steps had been taken to eradicate it.

In November, the government approved a Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination and other related forms of intolerance. However, a government-sponsored anti-discrimination bill failed to be adopted before the parliamentary elections in November.

  • Two municipalities in Catalonia, Lleida and El Vendrell, modified their regulations to ban the wearing of full-face veils in municipal buildings and spaces. Thirteen other municipalities in the region had initiated the process to introduce a similar ban. In June, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia endorsed the ban in Lleida, finding that concealing the face was at odds with the principle of equality between women and men.

  • In September, the Catalan government presented a bill to amend legislation on the establishment of places of worship. The bill aimed to drop the requirement for municipalities to provide available space to build new places of worship. The lack of availability of places of worship was particularly severe for religious minorities including Muslims and Evangelical Christians.

Violence against women

According to the Ministry of Health, Social Policy and Equality, 60 women were killed by their partners or former partners during 2011.

  • Susana Galeote was murdered by her former partner in February. She had filed a complaint and a restraining order against him in 2010. She had applied for the telephone assistance service provided by the government for victims of gender violence. Her request was turned down as she was considered to be at a low risk of being attacked.

An amendment to the Aliens Law in July provided that expulsion proceedings would not be opened against women in an irregular situation who report gender-based violence, until the criminal case against the alleged perpetrator had been resolved. If expulsion proceedings had already been initiated, they would be suspended pending the outcome of the complaint.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

According to figures issued by the Ministry of the Interior there was an increase in the number of irregular migrants arriving by sea.

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 3,414 people claimed asylum during the year. Only 326 applicants received refugee recognition and 595 were granted subsidiary protection.

Notwithstanding at least four rulings by the Andalusia High Court of Justice recognizing the right of asylum-seekers to move freely throughout Spanish territory, the Ministry of the Interior continued to prevent asylum-seekers in Ceuta and Melilla from moving to the mainland.

Enforced disappearances

The definition of enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity in domestic legislation continued to fall short of obligations under international law, despite Spain's ratification of the International Convention against enforced disappearance.

The accusation against Judge Baltasar Garzón for violating the 1977 Amnesty Law was still pending. In 2008, Baltasar Garzón had launched an investigation into crimes committed during the Civil War and under the Franco regime, which involved the enforced disappearance of more than 114,000 people between 1936 and 1951.

  • On 13 April 2010, relatives of two victims of enforced disappearance under the Franco regime launched a complaint in Argentina based on universal jurisdiction. A federal judge in Argentina asked the Spanish government whether the authorities were actively investigating the allegations of "physical elimination and the 'legalized' disappearance of children with loss of identity", conducted in the period between 17 July 1936 and 15 June 1977. In June, the government replied to the Argentine judiciary that investigations were being conducted in Spain. The case was pending at the end of the year.

International justice

Investigations into 13 cases of alleged crimes under international law committed outside Spain against Spanish citizens, or based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, were pending before the National High Court. However, progress in the investigation was very slow and faced major challenges such as lack of co-operation by other states.

  • In July, Central Investigating Court No. 1 included charges of gender-based crimes in the investigations into the crimes of genocide, terrorism and torture which were perpetrated in Guatemala during the internal conflict between 1960 and 1996.

  • In October, Central Investigating Court No. 1 issued an indictment against three US soldiers charged with the death of José Couso, a Spanish television cameraman, in Baghdad in 2003. None of the suspects was brought to trial by the end of the year.

Housing rights

Spanish law did not provide ways to access suitable and effective legal remedies to enforce economic, social and cultural rights. There was no law on transparency and access to information in relation to such rights.

  • In September, a Moroccan family with a valid residence permit was forcibly evicted from their home in Cañada Real, Madrid. The eviction took place at night, in contravention of international standards. Although the family had received notice of the eviction and filed an appeal, they were not consulted on alternative adequate accommodation nor offered any.

Children's rights

In October, the Ombudsperson reported his concerns regarding tests used to determine the age of unaccompanied minors entering Spain. Even in the presence of passports, the test results were used to decide whether the unaccompanied minors would be given access to protection and services.

There was still no legislation in line with international standards to regulate the placement of children in centres for minors with behavioural or social disorders. In September, a special committee in the Senate stated that it was necessary to provide the highest guarantees, and to clarify, define and co-ordinate the respective responsibilities of the different authorities.

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