Events of 2009

Counterterrorism measures in Spain continued to attract international criticism. The UN special rapporteur on human rights while countering terrorism and the Human Rights Committee, in December 2008 and January 2009 respectively, both expressed concerns over broad definitions of terrorism-related offenses and the continued use of incommunicado detention.

Spain extradited ethnic Chechen Murat Gasaev in late December 2008 to Russia on the basis of diplomatic assurances of humane treatment and a fair trial. Gasaev, whose extradition had been sought in connection with an attack on government buildings in Ingushetia in 2004, was released without charge in August, after 10 months in pretrial detention.

In July the European Court of Human Rights upheld, as a legitimate and proportionate interference with freedom of association, a 2003 ban on Basque political parties Batasuna and Herri Batasuna on the grounds they were linked to the ETA. On the same day, the Court ruled against the applicants in two related cases, finding that their inability to stand for election due to links to the banned political parties did not violate their right to freedom of expression.

Cooperation with France led to more ETA members being arrested in 2009, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso in April, the fourth military leader to be arrested since May 2008. ETA claimed responsibility for three separate car bomb attacks over the summer that claimed the lives of a police officer and two civil guards, and destroyed a Civil Guard barracks.

In April the Audiencia Nacional acquitted 10 out of 14 men accused of helping some of the alleged perpetrators of the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings to flee Spain, finding the case against them insufficient after excluding email correspondence that was intercepted without proper authorization. The other four were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to nine years.

Police unions denounced pressure to arrest irregular immigrants on the basis of quotas, and the use of racial and ethnic profiling in identity checks. In a landmark decision in July the Human Rights Committee held Spain responsible for race discrimination in the 1992 identity check of Rosalind Williams, an African-American who became a Spanish citizen in 1969. The decision is the first international ruling that racial or ethnic profiling violates the right to non-discrimination.

Arrivals by sea were down in the first half of 2009, in part due to increased surveillance and interceptions. Unaccompanied migrant children in the Canary Islands were still housed long-term in substandard accommodation designed as temporary shelter. Spain suspended deportations of unaccompanied children to Morocco in 2008 following numerous court decisions blocking such returns. In September 2009 a court ruled that Spain had to allow back a Moroccan national illegally expelled as a child in 2006.

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