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Spain: Allegations of torture must be investigated, says new Amnesty report

People alleging torture and other ill-treatment in Spain have been denied justice due to a lack of political will from the Spanish authorities to confront such abuses by security forces, Amnesty International said today (3 November) in a new report.

The report, published as the UN prepares to re-examine Spain’s record on torture, calls on the Spanish authorities to reform the current system of investigating allegations of torture and other ill-treatment from security forces.

“Spain: Adding insult to injury – police impunity two years on “ looks at cases first reported on by Amnesty in 2007. Complainants told Amnesty International that they had been threatened with a gun or knife, whipped on the soles of their feet, and received death threats from police officers.

Since November 2007 only two open investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment from the 11 reported by Amnesty International have resulted in a conviction. Of the remaining nine cases, six were closed without ever reaching trial and two are still under investigation, one of which has now been open for more than seven years.

In one case, it was found at trial that torture had taken place but the accused officers were all acquitted on the grounds that it was not possible to identify which of them had personally participated in the assault.

Rachel Taylor, Amnesty International’s Spain expert, said:

“The Spanish authorities must stop shirking their obligation to conduct thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment by police officers.

“The structural failings affecting all aspects of the prevention, investigation and punishment of torture and ill-treatment that Amnesty International identified in 2007 are still present, and still obstructing justice.

“Unless the Spanish authorities demonstrate political will to make the necessary changes to ensure effective and impartial investigation of all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, their victims will continue to face obstacles on their way to justice.”

Jordi Vilaseca was arrested on 1 April 2003 by autonomous regional police officers in Catalonia while driving home from work. He alleges that he was ill-treated during his three days in detention, including being made to stand facing the wall for 10 hours until he lost consciousness and was hospitalised. Jordi Vilaseca made a complaint against the police for torture. In May 2005 the case was closed on the grounds of lack of evidence and because the prosecutor said there were contradictory versions of events from the complainant and the accused. After several appeals, the Constitutional Court rejected the case in January 2009. No further appeal is possible.

Amnesty welcomed progress made in some police forces to implement measures designed to prevent acts or torture and other ill-treatment. The increasing use of CCTV cameras in police stations and clear personal identification of police officers on their uniforms are important developments in this regard. However, significant improvements in autonomous community police forces (the Basque Ertzaintza and Catalan Mossos d’Esquadra) have not been matched at national level.

Read the report  (PDF)

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