United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Spain, -, 30 January 1996, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/usdos/1996/en/24895 [accessed 05 March 2024]
SPAIN Spain is a democracy with a constitutional monarch. The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was elected to a fourth term in 1993, albeit as head of a minority government. The Socialist-run Government has agreed to hold elections in March 1996, one year short of its mandated term of office. The Government respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary in practice. Spain has three levels of security forces. The National Police are responsible for nationwide investigations, security in urban areas, traffic control, and hostage rescue. The Civil Guard polices rural areas and controls borders and highways. Autonomous police forces have taken over much of the duties of the Civil Guard in Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque country. The security forces are under the effective control of the Government; allegations of human rights abuses are investigated, and those found guilty are punished. The security services also maintain governmental anticorruption units. There is a Special Advisor for Human Rights in the Ministry of Justice and Interior, charged with promoting humanitarian law and providing human rights training to senior law enforcement personnel. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The economy is market-based, with primary reliance on private enterprise, although a number of public-sector enterprises remain in key areas. Growth was 1.7 percent in 1994 and nearly 3 percent in 1995. Citizens enjoy an advanced standard of living. While the unemployment rate improved, at year's end it remained well over 20 percent. Actual unemployment is lower due to the extensive underground economy. Nonetheless, the rate is problematically high. The main causes are labor laws that tend to impede job creation and social welfare programs that reduce the incentive to work. Parliament enacted a labor reform package in 1994, but its long-term effects on unemployment have not yet been fully felt. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. However, there were problems in some areas, including beatings by police, an inefficient judicial system, recent revelations of past government surveillance of private phone calls, discrimination against Roma, and increasing incidences of racism and rightwing, youth-related violence. The Government is taking important steps to deal with violence against women. The principal source of human rights abuses continued to be the protracted terrorism campaign waged by the Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) separatist group, which committed killings, kidnapings, and other abuses. The Government's efforts to bring terrorists to justice were marred by continued detainee accusations of mistreatment and recent allegations that the Government was behind the "Antiterrorist Liberation Group" (GAL) which was responsible for bombings, kidnapings, and 26 extrajudicial killings during the early 1980's. The Supreme Court was still investigating GAL at year's end. In September 1993, two suspected ETA collaborators died while in police custody; the Government has not yet released the results of its investigation. The remains of two suspected ETA members missing since 1983 were identified in March; investigators allege a government role in their abduction, torture and execution, and the courts are deciding if the Civil Guard and the Ministry of Justice and Interior have been involved in covering up some of the facts in the case. In October a German court refused to extradite a suspected ETA terrorist because of suspicions that he might be mistreated.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings by government forces in 1995, but in March a special police investigative team identified two partially burned and decomposed bodies as belonging to two suspected ETA members who were previously listed as missing since 1983. Authorities are investigating allegations that the police illegally abducted the two in France, then tortured and executed them. Separate litigation is under way regarding alleged Civil Guard and Ministry of Justice and Interior perjury and obstruction of justice after the bodies were found. In August new evidence and testimony relating to the previous case led to the reopening of another 10-year-old case involving the death in police custody of a young Basque tram conductor, Mikel Zabalza, whom authorities took from his home for alleged collaboration with terrorists. According to police testimony, Zabalza escaped--while still handcuffed--from three Civil Guardsmen. His body was found in a river 20 days later. Investigators now suspect Zabalza might have drowned from having his head dunked underwater during interrogation. Litigation is still pending. There were no new developments in the September 1993 incident in which two other suspected ETA collaborators died while in police custody. The matter is still under investigation. In September former Director of State Security Julian San Cristobal testified under oath to a Supreme Court investigating judge that the so-called Antiterrorist Liberation Group (GAL), which targeted Basque separatists and was responsible for bombings, kidnapings and at least 26 extrajudicial killings, never actually existed; GAL-attributed activities were actually state-sponsored covert operations. Other former high-ranking security officials continue to give similar testimony, although differing on how high up the chain of command the covert activities were mandated. Most observers expect the judicial hearings on GAL to take months. There continued to be frequent terrorist incidents. Thirty-six attacks were attributed to ETA in 1995, resulting in 17 deaths and 5 serious injuries. Actions by ETA and its affiliated groups caused millions of dollars worth of damage throughout Spain. Authorities say that the number of ETA-related violent acts in 1995 was three times the level carried out between 1990 and 1994. Notably in 1995, ETA expanded its targets to include journalists and the Basque autonomous police force and launched a concentrated attack on political parties. Fifty separate attacks on various party headquarters were reported through August. In January ETA murdered the deputy mayor of San Sebastian (who was also the center-right Popular Party's (PP) provincial president). Not since 1984 had an elected official been the victim of an ETA attack. In April Jose Maria Aznar, PP President and principal opposition leader, narrowly escaped death in an explosion that blew up his car and wounded his bodyguards. In August police arrested a group of ETA terrorists who planned to assassinate King Juan Carlos. On December 29, police arrested a ring of ETA terrorists who planned to kill Basque politicians. ETA also stepped up attacks on non-security personnel: during the summer months, 9 bombs exploded at tourist locations, and 15 bombs were planted on roadways or railways.
Basque industrialist Jose Maria Aldaia Etxeburu was kidnaped May 9 by ETA terrorists, who claimed responsibility for the act on May 25. The 53-year-old victim's whereabouts remain unknown. On June 27, the long-dormant Communist terrorist group "Grapo" kidnaped businessman Publio Cordon. Suspects arrested in October claim that he was released after payment of ransom, but he has not reemerged since his disappearance. (The Government forbids the payment of ransom by families of kidnap victims, and in some cases it has frozen the victim's family's assets.)
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such acts. Spain is a signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture and in March approved Protocol 1 of the 1993 Strasbourg European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Penalties. Nonetheless, there were instances of police beatings of racial and ethnic minorities (see Section 5). Human rights groups filed numerous complaints of torture and degrading treatment against the military as well. Detainees charged with terrorism invariably assert they have been abused during detention, and other detainees sometimes make similar charges. In 1994 over 100 security force members were found guilty of committing such abuses. In June the U.N. Committee Against Torture rejected a complaint filed on behalf of a French national imprisoned in Spain for ETA-related activities. The Committee ruled that the Government took seriously the allegations of mistreatment, investigated them, and determined them to be unfounded. According to the Association of Families of ETA Prisoners (Senideak), the 11 complaints of mistreatment that it lodged with authorities in 1994 is significantly down from similar complaints in past years (for example, 80 in 1993). The Secretary of State for Penal Affairs credits improvements in the way prisoners are transferred among prisons as being a significant factor in the decline of complaints. In February his office brought three cases recommended by Senideak to the courts. While the situation of ETA prisoners appears to be improving, individuals, nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and the media continue to accuse the Civil Guard of unprovoked brutality, particularly in the Basque region. According to the Spanish Association Against Torture's annual report, there were 267 accusations of torture in 1994 (latest data available), involving 448 members of the security forces, of whom 128 were found guilty and sentenced, and 120 were found innocent. The rest are still being processed. Key cases reaching the courts in 1995 included 14 Civil Guards being processed for mistreating an arrestee in Madrid and 8 Basque police officers charged with abusing 4 suspected terrorists. A paper released in February by the U.N. Center for Human Rights in Geneva indicated that 21 Spaniards, the majority of them Basques, filed claims of torture or degrading treatment with that office in 1994. The Government's position is that the complaints are false, and that any of the signs of abuse the plaintiffs might show could be the result of resisting arrest. The Government also contends that doctors assigned by the courts examined 15 of the alleged victims, all arrested over a 3-month period in Guipuzcoa, in the Basque country, and found no evidence of abuse. Nonetheless, the Government has looked into two of the cases, one involving proceedings against eight Basque regional police officers (Ertzaintza) in the case of an August 1994 arrestee who died from the over-inhalation of the gas used by police to defend themselves. In December a national court admitted "the possible existence of torture" as it sentenced 11 terrorists. It is unusual for a court to open up an appeal for torture at the time of sentencing, but the judge in the case noted "abundant evidence, all detailed, given not only by the accused but by other witnesses in the case." In October a German court refused to extradite a presumed ETA terrorist on the grounds that there were not sufficient guarantees that Spanish authorities would respect his human rights. The court also did not believe that he would receive adequate medical attention while in custody (he has AIDS). In December the German Supreme Court ruled in favor of Spain, but the suspect's lawyers are appealing the case to the Constitutional Court. Human rights groups and members of the press complain that accused human rights offenders have avoided penalization by prolonging the appeals process and that sentences for convicted abusers are unduly light. Both kinds of complaints are borne out by individual rulings. In March the Council of Ministers pardoned two of five civil guards whose convictions were upheld in September 1994 for torturing a Basque prisoner held incommunicado in 1983. The two have since been promoted. One of them had previously been pardoned in 1991 after having been convicted of torturing a local politician in 1983. The other one was not forced to resign from the police force until June; he had previous convictions for robbery with violence, possession of illegal weapons, and bribery. Six of nine Civil Guard members convicted in 1990 for torturing a suspect in 1980 were not finally expelled from the force until May. According to Amnesty International, those convicted of rights abuses customarily do not serve sentences of less than 1 year and 1 day. Prison conditions generally meet minimum international standards, and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors. In November 1994, a court convicted 12 officials of the model prison in Barcelona for applying "unnecessary severity" and causing injuries to 17 prisoners relating to a 1990 incident. Two were suspended for 4 years and the others for 3 years. They are appealing the verdict. Similar proceedings are under way against six guards at the model prison in Valencia. The guards are charged with 38 separate counts of torture, carrying a possible sentence of more than 10 years, for actions relating to a disturbance in 1992.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution and law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government observes these prohibitions. A suspect normally may not be held more than 72 hours without a hearing. The Penal Code permits holding a suspected terrorist an additional 2 days without a hearing. The law on aliens permits detention of a person for up to 40 days prior to deportation, but specifies that it must not take place in a prison-like setting.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary is independent in practice. The judicial structure comprises territorial, provincial, regional, and municipal courts with the Supreme Court at its apex. A Constitutional Court protects constitutional rights, but there is no clear distinction between its jurisdiction and that of the Supreme Court on some issues, nor is it clear which has ultimate authority. The European Court of Human Rights is the final arbiter in cases concerning human rights. The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the authorities respect this right in practice. Defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney (at public expense for the indigent). They are released on bail unless the court has reason to believe that the suspect may flee or be a threat to public safety. The law calls for an expeditious judicial hearing following arrest. Suspects may not be confined for more than 2 years before being brought to trial, unless a judge authorizes further delay; he may extend pretrial custody to 4 years. In practice, pretrial custody generally is less than 1 year. However, increasing criticism is heard in legal circles that some judges abuse preventive custody as a kind of anticipatory sentencing or as a means of eliciting testimony from uncooperative witnesses. In cases of petty crime, suspects released on bail sometimes wait as long as 5 years for trial. In September 25.8 percent of the prison population was in jail awaiting trial. Following conviction, defendants may appeal to the next higher court. Courts released over two dozen persons suspected of serious crimes from preventive custody during the year because they reached the maximum time of incarceration without a trial allowed by law. The Association of Victims of Terrorism and various police organs have protested the delays endemic in the present judicial process. A severe backlog of pending cases--in September there were some 38,000 of all kinds (not only human rights)--and an acute shortage of judges have prompted calls to overhaul the judicial system. In July Congress approved an ambitious project to revamp the entire Penal Code. Many describe this as the most ambitious legislative project since the framing of the Constitution; the Government scheduled completion of the project for 1996. Fulfilling a constitutional mandate, Congress voted in June to inaugurate a 9-person jury to preside over selected cases. In September candidates for jury duty were selected from census rolls for trials expected to be held by 1997. There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for 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 present antiterrorist law gives discretionary authority to the Minister of Justice and Interior to act prior to obtaining court approval "in cases of emergency." There were no complaints that the Minister abused this authority. In June the press published allegedly leaked official documents suggesting that the National Intelligence Agency (CESID) intercepted and recorded telephone conversations between 1984 and 1991. Private calls made by the King, various ministers, and other prominent figures were apparently taped and stored at CESID. The scandal resulted in the resignation of CESID's director, the Minister of Defense, and the Vice President. Investigation and litigation concerning the matter continues.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the Government respects these rights in practice. Opposition viewpoints, both from political parties and other organizations, are freely aired and are widely reflected in the media. Academic freedom is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, and its institutions receive official funding. Protestant and Jewish leaders have refused the Government's offer of financial support.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution and laws provide for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. The new asylum law, passed in 1994 but suspended in September that same year pending a hearing on its constitutionality, was reinstated with modifications in February. The law brings refugee and asylum cases together and gives full power to the Office of Asylum and Refugees (OAR--a branch of the Ministry of Justice and Interior) to adjudicate them, but also mandates that cases can be referred to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for appeal. Asylum requests can be made only at the port of entry, and applicants stay in detention until the case is resolved. Negative rulings must be returned within 72 hours, but the asylum seeker has an additional 24 hours in which to make an appeal. No provisions are made for detainees to have access to translators or lawyers. In 1994, of the 12,812 requests for asylum, the Government admitted 627. In the first 9 months of 1995, the OAR reported that only 286 asylum petitions were filed, and it granted 158, or 55 percent. Most of those denied were found to be economic, not political, 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 by secret ballot for Parliament, regional, provincial, and local bodies. At all levels of government, elections are held at least every 4 years. Governmental power is shared between the central Government and 17 regional "Autonomous Communities." Local nationalist parties give political expression to regional linguistic and cultural identities; their influence at the national level has been increased by the Government's minority position in Parliament. In the Basque country, nationalist parties provide a legitimate democratic alternative to separatist groups that advocate achieving independence through terrorist violence. Sporadic examples of political violence perpetrated by extreme nationalist fringe groups occurred during the year. In April a mayoral candidate from a center-right party for a town in Catalonia was threatened with death, had his motorcycle burned on his front porch, and had his office attacked with stones to prevent him from campaigning. In the Basque country, violent protesters occupied several town halls following local election results that they thought were unfavorable. Women are increasing their participation in the political process. The number of female candidates increased in the 1993 national elections. However, under the electoral system, the percentage of votes won determines the number of candidates elected from the party list; because parties place many women in the lower half of the list, the number elected has never reached 25 percent of the total. In Congress, 54 of 350 deputies are women, while in the Senate women number 32 of 256 members. There are three female ministers. Most political parties have within their charters mandates for at least a 25-percent quota for women to participate in all party political endeavors. However, few parties currently live up to this ideal. In the May 28 regional and municipal elections, 29 percent of the center-right Popular Party's mayoral candidates and 24 percent of its candidates for regional parliaments were women.
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, in Madrid, 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 provides for a national Ombudsman, called the "people's defender," who actively investigates complaints of human rights abuses by the authorities. The Ombudsman operates independently from any party or government ministry, must be elected every 5 years by a three-fifths majority of Congress, and is immune from prosecution. He has complete access to government institutions and documents not classified secret for reasons of national security. His 1994 annual report, released in March, listed 18,594 complaints of all kinds. While the majority of cases pertained to education and social services, there was an increase in complaints of racism, as well as in cases of mistreatment by security forces.
Sexual abuse, violence, and harassment in the workplace continued to be areas of great concern. According to the nongovernmental (but largely government-funded) Commission for Investigation of Mistreatment of Women, 86 women were killed by male partners in 1994. The police received 16,000 complaints of abuse in 1994 (the latest figures available); however, experts believe that only 10 percent of violent acts against women each year are reported to authorities, owing in part to the unsympathetic attitudes of some police and judicial personnel. A 1989 law prohibits harassment in the workplace, but very few cases have been brought to trial under this law. Several levels of government provide assistance to battered women. A toll-free hot line advises women where to go for government shelter or other aid if mistreated. The Government also runs educational programs seeking to change public attitudes that contribute to violence against women. The Women's Institute has charged that some judges are reluctant to get involved in cases of violence against a woman by a member of her family. Similarly, in smaller towns some police officers have been reluctant to accept complaints from battered women. Recognizing the latter problem, the National Police have special sections to deal with violence against women, staffed by specially trained women officers. According to a report from the Secretary of State for the Interior, 1,603 rapes were reported in 1994, 2 percent more than the year before. The report attributes the increase to more reporting due to better treatment of victims by the police's special services sections. Some rape cases in 1995 were decided on the degree of the victim's physical resistance, or whether the rapist succeeded in vaginal penetration. In recent years women, who make up 51 percent of the population, have moved towards equality under the law and entered the educational system and work force in larger numbers: slightly more women than men now have college degrees, and women outnumber men in the legal, journalism, and health care professions. Growing numbers of women occupy senior governmental positions, among them the Ministers of Social Affairs, Health, and Culture. Women make up about 30 percent of judges (a profession that was closed to women before 1977). In December the Constitutional Court ruled that the Constitution outlaws discrimination based on sex in all endeavors. Nonetheless, traditional attitudes continue to impose de facto discrimination. This varies considerably among the regions. In September inspectors from the Ministry of Labor fined a hospital in Bilbao for requiring its female nurses to wear skirts instead of pants while at work. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. In October the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of 25 women at a Basque latex factory whose union complained that they had been unjustly compensated. The factory justified paying men more because they "work harder," lift more, and were more apt to work late hours. The Court ruled that work done by men and women, though different, was of equal value. However, according to a report by the Government's Economic and Social Council, for the first quarter of 1995 the median salary for women was 28 percent less than for men (the Ministry for Social Affairs puts the number at 20 percent for 1994). The same report says that women are more likely to have temporary contracts and part-time employment than men. Although one-third more women (mainly those under age 30) work outside the home than a decade ago, women make up only a third of the total work force. The Government tried to instigate private sector incentives to diversify the workforce, but in October the European Union Justice Tribunal in Luxembourg ruled that quotas favoring women were discriminatory and illegal. According to Ministry of Labor data, the unemployment rate for women is almost double that for men. The National Association of Rural Women and Families testified before the Senate in May that although 80 percent of rural women are not formally employed, they aid their husbands in farming or fishing. They do not receive the same social security benefits as the male head of household since they lack titles to the family enterprise.
The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's welfare through well-funded and easily accessed programs of education and health care. The Constitution obligates both the State and parents to protect children, whether or not born in wedlock. The Ministries of Health and Social Affairs are responsible for the welfare of children and have created a number of programs to aid needy children. Numerous NGO's exist to further children's rights. For example, the School Help Program for the Protection of Children operates a team of experts who work with educators to help them identify abused or abandoned children in the classroom. In Madrid alone, 425 schools participated in the program, and the group helped identify 1,050 cases of abuse in 1994. Under the new Penal Code, children under the age of 18 are not considered responsible for their acts and so cannot be sent to prison. A 1987 signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention, Spain voted in March to withdraw reservations it had held previously in regard to the protection of minors; the treaty's provisions will now apply to all children in Spain, not just those who are Spanish citizens. The Law of the Child bill passed by Congress in April gives legal rights of testimony for minors in child abuse cases; it also will oblige all citizens to act on cases of suspected child abuse and, for the first time, sets up rules regarding foreign adoptions. The law permits children of mothers who are incarcerated to reside in prison with the mother until age 6; a resolution passed by the Senate recommends that the age be reduced. As of September, 221 children lived in jails.
People with Disabilities
The Constitution obliges the State to provide for the adequate treatment and care of people with disabilities and to ensure that they are not deprived of the basic rights which apply to all citizens. A law on the integration of disabled citizens aims to ensure fair access to public employment, prevent discrimination, and facilitate physical accessibility to public facilities and transportation. However, such accessibility has not yet improved much in many areas. In 1993 the autonomous community in Madrid passed local legislation requiring all new construction to be adapted to the needs of the disabled. In May the Parliament enacted a similar but more broadly defined law. In June the Senate voted to recommend that the Government adopt "the necessary means to better integrate the deaf into society" but did not include specific points of action. The 1989 Penal Code allows parents or legal representatives of a mentally disabled person to petition a judge to obtain permission for the sterilization of that person, and many courts have authorized such surgery. In July 1994 the Constitutional Court held that sterilization of the mentally infirm does not constitute a violation of the Constitution. Religious groups continue to contest this ruling.
Roma, constituting about 3 percent of the population, continue to suffer de facto discrimination in housing, schools, and jobs. A census published by the private polling firm Cires in June showed Roma to be among the least socially valued groups, above "drug addicts" but below "immigrants." A university study released in October indicates that while racism is on the increase in general, anti-Roma sentiments by students tripled between 1986 and 1993. Legal mechanisms exist by which Roma may seek redress of discrimination, and the Government has stated its commitment to secure equal rights and treatment for them. On January 25, the Constitutional Court denied the appeal of the ex-mayor of Mancha Real and 17 others convicted of inciting or participating in a riot that led to the destruction of a Romani community in May 1991. In a related case, a lower court ordered 19 Mancha Real citizens to pay damages of $3,252 (Ptas 400,000) to four Romani children whom they taunted and harassed with racial epithets while the children traveled to and from school. Since 1991 the Madrid city government, in cooperation with the autonomous regional government, has been carrying out a program to relocate squatters--the great majority of whom are Roma--to housing projects in the region. Spain's largest Romani organization, Gypsy Presence, protests the relocation and complains that the city has put up fences and police checkpoints that make Romani communities resemble prison camps. The group's complaint that such relocation areas lack basic services is supported by NGO's and the press. The city government denies any anti-Romani bias in its actions. The University of Navarra estimates that 12,000 people live in camps on the outskirts of Madrid ("Chabolistas"), although the Madrid public works councillor complained in September that there has never been a reliable census of Chabolistas. Six of the 17 autonomous communities use a language or dialect other than Castilian Spanish. The Constitution stipulates that citizens have "the duty to know" Castilian, which is the "official language of state," but it adds that other languages can also be official under regional statutes, and that "the different language variations of Spain are a cultural heritage which shall be...protected." Catalonia has passed a law whereby Catalan is to be taught in the region's schools and is to be used for official regional functions. In December 1994, the Constitutional Court ruled against a challenge to this law, in a case brought by several Castilian Spanish-speakers in Catalonia who claimed to be discriminated against in education and employment. Suits regarding specific applications of this law are still pending in various courts. The regional parliaments of Galicia and Valencia are currently debating whether to institute language laws similar to Catalonia's. In April Parliament modified the Penal Code to make it a crime to "incite, publicize, or otherwise promote the abuse or discrimination of people or groups because of race, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, or religious beliefs." No cases have yet been tried under this law, and human rights groups and the media continued to give increasing attention to the human rights of the growing numbers of illegal immigrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa. The Association of Moroccan Immigrant Laborers has offices in Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville to combat anti-Moroccan racism, and Madrid city government in December created a special administrative office to air immigrant complaints. Only 1.3 percent of the total population is foreign-born. Nonetheless, a February study by the Institute of Economic Studies suggested that the local job market could not absorb any more immigrants and that the rate of immigration should be drastically reduced. A June Cires poll indicated that 26 percent of Spaniards (double that of the year before) think that "there are too many people from other nationalities who live in Spain." The government census body (CIS) released a study in March for the European Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia that indicated slightly higher numbers for Spaniards who think that the present rate of immigration is "too much" and showed that 53.2 percent of Spaniards "never had any kind of interaction" with immigrants. Minister of Social Services Cristina Alberdi, who issued the report, claimed that the numbers suggested that there was less racism in Spain than ever before and said that Spaniards are "very liberal and tolerant" and are "the least racist of Europe." Nonetheless, race-related incidents have increasingly been reported in the press. The media regularly reported alleged police mistreatment of northern and sub-Saharan Africans, particularly Moroccans, still commonly called "Moors" by many Spaniards. In September 1991 in Ibiza, a Civil Guard patrol, aided by municipal police, stopped and questioned two Danish-passport carrying Muslim tourists. Authorities claim that the two then became violent. Nonetheless, police kept them handcuffed and continued beating them at the police station. After a month-long inquiry, the public prosecutor decided to postpone the case filed by the two complainants. Meanwhile, the pair were charged with resisting arrest and causing injury. In July 1993, they were found guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced to a month and a day in jail. It was not until March that the court convicted the five accused security officers of "mistreatment" and "causing physical and mental damage." The victims received an indemnity of $4,065 (Ptas 500,000). The police were required to pay the medical and court costs of the victims and face a jail sentence "of up to 30 days." In June 1994, a Reuter photographer who happened to be passing by photographed Zahzouh Mohammed, an Algerian legal resident of Spain, being beaten by police. The photos proved to be the only evidence in the Algerian's favor when a hearing of the case occurred a year later: police cited the two witnesses who cosigned Mohammed's complaint for resisting arrest and had them deported. Three other witnesses have left the country, and another cannot be located. In March two illegal immigrant women from Morocco and Brazil claimed that they were sexually assaulted by the same guard at an internment center in Malaga, where they were being held prior to their deportation. The guard did not deny the acts, but claimed that they were consensual. Two other guards have been implicated in abuse and mistreatment. A legal investigation is underway, but the plaintiffs meanwhile have been deported. Two Latin American women complained of sexual assault while being held at the Madrid airport at the end of January. The Ombudsman had received similar complaints in 1994, and an investigation is underway. The accused spent 2 days in custody and has been released pending trial. In June a black Dominican was at an open air bar with his white female companion when police arrested him, allegedly responding to a complaint that he had been beating her. The woman denied that there had been any problem; the Dominican reportedly resisted arrest, was beaten by the officers, handcuffed, and taken to the police station where he sustained more beatings that required hospitalization. Two officers were charged with abuse, released on $8,130 (Ptas 1 million) bail, and allowed to report back to work. Their case is still pending. Police served the Dominican with deportation papers 36 hours after he filed his complaint. A March CIS poll indicated that "North Americans" are among the "least valued" ethnic groups in Spain, above "Moroccans" but below "Asians" and "black Africans." U.S. citizens regularly complain of discrimination and abuse by authorities and, more frequently, by ordinary citizens. Women, African-Americans, and U.S. citizens of Latin American origin are those most frequently victimized. The worst case occurred in May when a black American dance choreographer was badly beaten, seriously damaging his hand, by five youths in a Madrid metro station because of his skin color. There are consistent complaints that when tourists report thefts or assaults to local police, the crimes are often shrugged off as being perpetrated by non-Spaniards. An extreme example of this occurred in June when a native Spanish-speaking U.S. citizen reported to the police a robbery involving a rental car near Madrid's international airport. The investigating officer told the man that the incident was an isolated occurrence and that he was probably robbed by "(his) own countrymen--Sudacos" (a disparaging term used for Latinos). When the victim protested that the man who robbed him spoke with a Spanish (Castillian) accent, the policeman wrote on the official report: "thief spoke Spanish, with an accent." Quasi-organized rightwing youth gangs, called "skinheads" by the local press, continued to commit violent attacks throughout the year, terrorizing minorities, assaulting law enforcement officers, and in some instances, committing murder. At least four street battles, involving dozens of youth and police, occurred in 1995. A government minister told Congress in November that skinhead violence had increased 20 percent over the previous year. A Ministry of Justice and Interior report in September indicated that 37 percent of cities with over 25,000 inhabitants reported skinhead activities in 1995. Barcelona led the list with 78 percent of the reported incidents, followed by Madrid and Valencia. National police believe the skinhead population to be 2,331 nationwide and have made 166 arrests this year. Justice and Interior Minister Juan Alberto Belloch said in October that racist youth violence "is not very serious in quantitative terms, but this rash of violence is indeed dangerous."
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. All that is required to organize a union is that more than two workers register with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. Spain has over 200 registered trade unions, but one is not legally registered. The Constitutional Court ruled in 1986 that it was ineligible, since it represents military personnel barred from unionization by the Constitution. Under the Constitution, trade unions are free to choose their representatives, determine their 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 fields is legal if its sponsors give 5-days' notice. Any striking union must respect minimum-service requirements negotiated with the respective employer. The Constitutional Court has interpreted the right to strike to include general strikes called to protest government policy. Strikes occur frequently, but most are brief. Data for 1995 show an increase in strike activity, presumably reflecting a new determination by the unions to offer and accept fewer concessions while the Government is trying to restructure several large industries, such as steel and shipbuilding. Unions are free to form or join federations and affiliate with international bodies and do so without hindrance.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
A 1980 statute undergirds the right to organize and bargain collectively. Trade union and collective bargaining rights were extended in 1986 to all workers in the public sector, except the military services. Public sector collective bargaining in 1990 was broadened to include salaries and employment levels, but the Government retained the right to set these if negotiations failed. Collective bargaining agreements are widespread in both the private and public sectors; in the latter they cover 60 percent of workers, notwithstanding that only about 10 percent of them are actually union members. The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Discrimination cases have priority in the labor courts. Legislation in 1990 gave unions a role in controlling temporary work contracts to prevent abuse of these and of termination actions. Nonetheless, unions contend that employers discriminate in many cases by refusing to renew the temporary employment contract of a worker who has engaged in union organizing; more than a third of all employees in Spain are under temporary contracts, and the number is growing. 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.
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 statutory minimum age for employment 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 law also prohibits the employment of persons under age 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous.
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 $17.00 (Ptas 2,090); for those ages 16 and 17 it is $11.25 (Ptas 1,381). The Government revises these rates every year in line with the consumer price index, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security effectively enforces them. The law sets a 40-hour workweek with an unbroken rest period of 36 hours after each 40 hours worked. Workers enjoy 12 paid holidays a year and a month's paid vacation. Worktime limits are effectively enforced. Government mechanisms exist for enforcing working conditions and occupational health and safety rules, but bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and inefficient. The Government is revising safety and health legislation to conform to European Union directives. The National Institute of Safety and Health in 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.
In this section
U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Spain
Discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity
Economic, social and cultural rights
Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
Freedom of assembly and association
Freedom of expression
Freedom of movement
Freedom of religion
Freedom of speech
Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
Social group discrimination
Trafficking in persons
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