U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Spain

  Spain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch, King Juan Carlos I. In free and open elections held in June 1993, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was reelected to a fourth term, albeit as head of a minority government. The security forces are under the full control of the government; allegations of human rights abuse are investigated, and those found guilty are punished by law. Spanish security services maintain anticorruption brigades that investigate allegations of fraud and dishonesty within each service. Since 1989, a Special Advisor for Human Rights in the Ministry of the Interior has been in charge of promoting humanitarian law and training senior members of law enforcement groups in human rights issues. Charges of police abuse of detainees were being investigated at year's end. The economy is market based, with primary reliance on private initiative, although there are still a sizable number of public sector enterprises. The economy lapsed into recession in 1992 and was expected to decline by approximately 1 percent in 1993. High unemployment, amounting to approximately 22 percent as of September 1993, continued, due in part to the entry of large numbers of people into the labor force. The fundamental rights of freedom of speech, assembly, press, religion, movement, and participation in the political process are provided for in the Constitution of 1978 and are respected in practice. The Basque Fatherland and Freedom Separatist Group (ETA) continued to wage a protracted campaign of terrorism, although the number of incidents declined in 1993. The Government's efforts to bring individual terrorists to justice resulted in accusations by detainees of ill-treatment. In late September, two suspected ETA collaborators died while in police custody due to circumstances that by year's end had not been fully explained. Preliminary reports by the state coroner and police investigations failed to find any evidence of irregular police action. Other human rights problems included de facto discrimination against Gypsies and increasing reports of police mistreatment of illegal aliens.


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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known political killings by government forces. In late September, two suspected ETA collaborators died while in police custody, one as a result of cardiac arrest and the other from injuries incurred when, according to police, he fell from a second-story window. Prime Minister Gonzalez pledged complete "transparency" in the Government's investigation of the deaths until the incidents were fully explained. By year's end, investigations had not found any evidence of wrongdoing by police authorities. A prominent nongovernmental human rights organization launched its own investigation into the incidents. The death of an American citizen after fleeing police in the Canary Islands in 1992 has not been fully explained and remains under investigation by Spanish judicial authorities. Spanish courts found no evidence of police wrongdoing and initially ordered the case to be closed. However, the family's lawyer contested this resolution, and the case continued under investigation at year's end. It is customary in many Spanish regions for investigations to take as long as a year, sometimes longer. Frequent terrorist incidents continued during 1993, although those resulting in deaths or serious injuries decreased significantly. Between January and September, 14 terrorist-related attacks resulted in 14 deaths and 37 injuries. As in previous years, the vast majority of those killed were members of the Guardia Civil and the National Police. Ten of the deaths were attributed to ETA, one to the First of October Anti-Fascist Group (GRAPO), and one to the Basque group Iraultza Aske.

b. Disappearance

There were no claims during 1993 that police or government security forces carried out secret arrests or kidnapings.

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

Spanish law prohibits the use of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Despite these provisions, detainees charged with terrorism continue to assert that they are abused during detention. Persons arrested for criminal offenses sometimes made similar charges. The Government had difficulty in credibly refuting such charges because, under the law, suspected terrorists may be held incommunicado for 5 days. Regarding the early 1992 charges of police abuse of 28 suspected ETA detainees, at the end of 1993 investigations were continuing, and 9 civil guard suspects had been named, according to a prominent nongovernmental organization. Regarding 16 prison guards in Catalonia charged with brutality, no formal results of the investigations had been announced by year's end. The media regularly reported alleged police mistreatment of northern and sub-Saharan Africans, particularly Moroccans, although there were no confirmed cases of abuse. Police in Valencia in March initiated an investigation into mistreatment of a Moroccan citizen during a routine identification check. Authorities had not announced the results of the investigation by year's end. In February the Ombudsman released his 1992 report to the Parliament in which he denounced the "clearly racist and xenophobic attitudes" of many law enforcement officials in their dealings with foreigners, particularly at airports and other ports of entry. Passengers on board a Moroccan ferry which docked in the port of Algeciras reported that when Spanish Civil Guards boarded the vessel to check documents, a fracus ensued in which the guards beat several of the passengers, including women and children. There was no apparent followup on this case. The Ombudsman received 31 complaints of police abuse in 1992. The Ombudsman condemned prison overcrowding.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and normally a suspect may not be held for more than 3 days without a judicial hearing. Detainees have the right to counsel of their choice unless they are suspected of being terrorists, in which case legal counsel is appointed by the Government. A suspected terrorist may be held up to 5 days without a hearing and without access to an attorney or family members. Exile is not practiced.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair public trial. This right is observed in practice. The judicial structure comprises territorial, provincial, regional, and municipal courts with the Supreme Tribunal at its apex. The Constitutional Tribunal has jurisdiction over constitutional issues. The European Court of Human Rights is the final arbiter in cases concerning human rights. Defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney, at state expense for the indigent. The right to be released on bail is guaranteed, unless the court has reason to believe a suspect may flee or constitutes a serious threat to public safety. Suspects may not be confined for more than 2 years before being brought to trial, unless a further delay is authorized by a judge. The period of pretrial custody may be extended up to 6 years, at the judge's discretion. In practice, pretrial custody generally is less than 1 year. However, the Ombudsman's report for 1992 criticized ever- increasing delays in judicial proceedings. In cases of petty crime, suspects released on bail may face a wait of as long as 5 years before trial. Following conviction, defendants may appeal to the next higher court. A Supreme Court judge complained publicly in January about criticism from members of the Government and the governing Socialist Party (PSOE) for his ongoing investigation of allegations of improper campaign financing practices. In February the second division of the Supreme Court directed the judge to suspend his investigation and submit a report on his findings within 10 days.

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

The Constitution protects 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 antiterrorist law gives discretionary authority to the Minister of the Interior to act prior to obtaining court approval "in cases of emergency." In February 1992, the Parliament passed legislation called the Citizen's Security Law, broadening police authority to search certain residences and detain citizens without a court order. The law, intended to aid in the fight against narcotics trafficking and terrorism, was passed despite strong criticism from the opposition parties that it was unconstitutional. In November 1993, the Constitutional Court, in a unanimous ruling, declared unconstitutional a key provision of the law which permitted law enforcement authorities to conduct searches without a warrant in certain circumstances. The Court's ruling reportedly jeopardized about 800 arrests over the previous 2 years which were based on warrantless searches and an unknown number of convictions and was a key factor in the resignation of the Interior Minister who originally authored the law.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and the press are provided for in the Constitution, and the Government observes these provisions. Opposition viewpoints, both from political parties and other organizations, are freely aired and are widely reflected in the media. In late September, the Supreme Court ruled that an interruption of a 1981 speech by the King in the Basque region by members of ETA's political wing, Herri Batasuna (HB), was a valid exercise of freedom of expression. This was considered a landmark decision, given the broad respect the royal family commands and the Government's opposition to HB. The hecklers, who were not held in custody, were tried under a law prohibiting insults against the royal family.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

As provided in the Constitution, all groups have the right of free assembly and association for political or other purposes. This right is fully respected and freely practiced.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. There is no state religion. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, and the Catholic Church receives official funding. However, other religions are represented and function with full freedom. In February, 1990 the Government concluded accords with federations of Spanish Jews and Protestants which ended a state of official legal discrimination against those two religions. The accords placed Protestants and Jews on an equal legal footing with Catholics, except in the matter of financial support from the Government, which both groups had renounced. Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish, as well as Catholic, students now have the right to receive separate religious instruction in public schools. In April 1992 the Parliament passed legislation reaffirming the legal equality of all religions, including that of Islam.

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

Citizens have complete freedom to travel within and outside the country. The Government restricts neither emigration nor repatriation. The law on illegal aliens permits detention of a person for up to 40 days prior to expulsion but specifies that the detention may not take place in a prison-like setting. Refugee and asylum cases are adjudicated by an interministerial commission. Generally, the Government grants refugee status on the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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 for Parliament as well as for provincial and local bodies. At all levels of government, elections must be held every 4 years. The most recent elections were general legislative elections in June 1993. Spanish politics contain an important regional element which is particularly strong in Catalonia and the Basque country. These two "autonomous communities" are similar to U.S. states. Governmental power in Spain is shared between the central Government and 17 regional "autonomous communities," each with its own specific powers. The Catalan and Basque regions are ruled by regional parties which reflect the desires of many Catalans and Basques to give political expression to their own linguistic and cultural identities. These parties provide democratic alternatives to separatist groups which advocate achieving independence through terrorist violence. The regional parties' influence on the national level has increased by virture of the Government's minority position in the Parliament. Participation of women in the political process continued to increase. However, under Spain's electoral system, the percentage of votes won determines the number of candidates elected from the party list; hence a candidate's place on the list is crucial in determining election. Since many women candidates were placed in the lower half of the lists, the number elected has never reached 25 percent. Nevertheless, the number of women occupying prominent governmental positions continued to grow. Of the 350 newly elected Members of Parliament, 55 are women. At year's end, 3 of the 16 cabinet ministers were women, and there were 3 female Ambassadors in the Foreign Ministry.

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 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 an independent Ombudsman actively investigates complaints of human rights abuses by the authorities.


While Spanish women have in recent years moved towards equality under the law, increased their access to the educational system, and entered the work force in larger numbers, traditional attitudes continued to result in de facto discrimination. There is considerable regional variation in the extent of such discrimination. The Government's initiatives on behalf of women included the establishment in 1983 of the Women's Institute, which seeks to promote social, political, and economic equality. In 1993 an updated draft of the Women's Institute 1988 Plan for Equality of Opportunities for Women went into effect. Its essential provisions included establishing a working group between relevant ministries and women's groups aimed at assisting battered and sexually molested women; facilitating access to job search information networks; and promoting equal sharing of family responsibilities. Although one-third more women (mainly those younger than 29 years of age) work outside the home than a decade ago, the incidence of such employment in Spain is still quite low. There are relatively few women in leadership positions in business, industry, or government. Women's pay still lags behind that of men. The 1993 Plan for Equality of Opportunities addressed this issue by developing programs aimed at subsidizing indefinite hiring contracts (versus lower paying temporary ones) and by promoting management training programs for women. Sexual abuse, violence, and harassment of women in the workplace continued to be areas of stated governmental concern, but most such abuses were probably not reported, owing in part to the unsympathetic attitudes of police and judicial personnel. However, the number of reported cases has grown in recent years. The Women's Institute has charged that some judges are reluctant to get involved in what they feel should remain a domestic problem. Similarly, in smaller towns some police officers have been reluctant to accept complaints from battered women. To deal with this 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 specially trained women officers. Women's groups and other relevant nongovernmental organizations have supported this program, the impact of which is widely regarded as very positive. Several levels of government provide institutional remedies, such as shelters for battered women. The Government attempts through educational programs to change public attitudes that contribute to violence against women. In 1989 the Parliament passed a law prohibiting verbal and physical harassment in the workplace, but no cases had been tried under this law by the end of 1993.


The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with looking after the rights and welfare of children. Through a directorate tasked with protecting the rights of minors, the Government has pursued programs aimed at preventing discrimination against teenagers and children. Specific offices of this directorate deal with adoption and family sheltering. The Ministry also has a Center for Studies of the Underaged and a Youth Institute charged with promoting social programs for teenagers and children. In early 1993, authorities discovered the bodies of three teenage girls who had been raped, tortured, and subsequently killed. The investigation raised a national outrage because one of the suspected criminals was a convict who had failed to return to custody after a weekend leave. The incident led the Ministry of Social Affairs to press for stiffer penalties and denial of jail passes for rapists. By year's end, no legislation had been passed as a direct result of the Ministry's requests.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Gypsies, a minority group representing 3 percent of the population, continue to suffer de facto discrimination in housing, schools, and jobs. Legal mechanisms exist by which the Gypsies may seek redress, and the Government has stated its commitment to securing equal rights and treatment for them. The municipal government in Madrid began a program in 1991 to relocate Gypsy families living in shacks on the outskirts of the capital to housing projects in established communities and toughened enforcement of existing antidrug laws to assuage fears that such relocations would increase drug-related crime. In 1993 the program, however, ran into funding problems and was discontinued. Human rights groups and media continued to give increasing attention to the question of human rights for the growing numbers of illegal immigrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa. Discontent was particularly acute in the case of South Americans, especially Peruvians and Dominicans. Their discontent resulted primarily from the lack of equal economic opportunities and disrespectful treatment by bureaucratic authorities. There were sporadic racist and antiforeigner attacks throughout Spain, some of which involved local police. For example, an African-American student was attacked and beaten by a group of "skinheads." He ran to a nearby building and called the police, but they refused to come to the scene and insisted he go to the station to file a complaint. Other allegations of racist and antiforeigner incidents included refusal of service at restaurants and harassment by police. In an effort to mitigate the increasing problem of antiforeigner violence, the Ministry of Social Affairs initiated a campaign entitled "Democracy is Equality" aimed at sensitizing the Spanish public to immigrants and at diminishing violence against minorities. At least 12 nongovernmental organizations collaborated in the campaign. The campaign used large billboards and television and radio commercials throughout Spain to promote equal treatment for Jews, homosexuals, the handicapped, and racial minorities. Among other themes, the campaign used Spanish immigration to Northern Europe after the Civil War as a means of reminding the public that Spanish immigrants also had once benefited from opportunities abroad. A group of parents from Spanish-speaking households in Catalonia staged demonstrations to protest the Catalan Government's refusal to order that their children's schools provide instruction in Castilian. The Catalan Government's language instruction policy is aimed at making Catalan the language of preference, with Castilian a second language. Each school, in consultation with parents and the local municipality, decides the mix of Catalan and Castilian to be used. In most primary schools, most classes for children up to 8 are taught in Catalan, with more Castilian added to the mix from age 9 on. Some Castilian-speaking parents feel their children are at a disadvantage when forced into an educational system tought predominantly in Catalan.

People with Disabilities

Since 1982 a law for the integration of disabled citizens has been in effect. It aims at ensuring fair access to public employment, preventing disability, and facilitating physical accessibility for the disabled. The law has had a dramatic effect in such key areas as providing access for the handicapped to public buildings and ensuring them parking areas, although it did not require physical accessibility. In 1993 the Autonomous Community in Madrid passed local legislation requiring that all new construction be adapted to the needs of the handicapped.

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 without previous authorization. The only requisites for organizing a union are the formation of a group of more than two workers and registration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which is routinely granted. Spain has over 200 registered trade unions. The only union presently in existence that is not legally registered is the Unified Trade Union of the Guardia Civil, which the Constitutional Court ruled in 1986 could not be registered as it purports to represent military personnel barred from unionization by the Constitution. Under the Constitution, trade unions are free to choose their own representatives, determine their own 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 when it fulfills the requirement of 5 days' prior notice. Strikes must respect legal minimum service requirements, which are negotiated between the employer and the unions. Strikes occur frequently in Spain, although most are of short duration. Data for 1992 revealed the highest rate of working days lost to strikes, including a May 28 nationwide strike, since 1988, while preliminary data for 1993 showed many fewer lost days, likely a consequence of the country's economic recession. Spanish unions are free to form or join federations and confederations and affiliate with international bodies, and they do so without hindrance.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively was established by statute in 1980. Trade union and collective bargaining rights were extended to all workers in the public sector, except the military services, in 1986. Public sector collective bargaining in 1990 was broadened to include salaries and employment levels, but the Government retained the right to fix salary and employment levels if negotiations did not achieve an agreement. Collective bargaining is widespread in both the private and public sectors. Private sector collective bargaining agreements cover 60 percent of workers, although only a minority are actually union members. Though firm figures are not available, it is generally accepted that only about 10 percent of workers are dues-paying union members. 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 economy. The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Discrimination cases have priority in the labor courts. A prominent multinational company was fined heavily in 1991 for discrimination against union organizers. Legislation favored by the unions and adopted in 1990 has given trade unions a role in controlling work contracts to prevent abuse of contract and termination actions.

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 legal minimum age for employment as established by statute 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 employment of persons under 18 years of age at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous by the Ministry and the unions is also legally prohibited.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The legal minimum wage for workers over age 18 is considered sufficient for a decent standard of living. The daily national minimum wage rate is approximately $15 (1,951 pesetas), effective January 1, 1993. The minimum wage for those aged 16 and 17 is less; $9.91 (1,289 pesetas). The minimum wage is revised every year in accordance with the consumer price index and is effectively enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. A 40-hour workweek is established by law, with a minimum unbroken rest period of a day and a half following each 40 hours worked. Spanish workers enjoy 12 paid holidays a year and a month's paid vacation. Standards are effectively enforced. Government mechanisms exist for enforcing working conditions and occupational health and safety conditions, but bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and inefficient. The National Institute of Safety and Health within 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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