Spain: 'vague' counter-terrorism proposals threaten human rights

‘The proposed definition of terrorism includes so many crimes that it is rendered virtually meaningless’ - Julia Hall
 
Proposed amendments to Spain’s criminal code that would expand the range of crimes defined as “terrorism” are ill-defined and would infringe people’s human rights, said Amnesty International today as the Spanish parliament began debating the measures. 
 
Among the raft of proposed amendments is an expansion of the definition of terrorism to include acts such as “disruption” of public order and “resistance” against public authorities. Another proposal would outlaw travelling, or planning to travel, outside of Spain to train or collaborate with militant groups, even if no such training occurs or no so-called terrorist act is committed. 
 
Making a statement on social media that could be perceived as inciting others to commit violent attacks would also be outlawed, even if the statement could not be directly linked to a violent act. Information sharing, including with foreign intelligence services, raises the prospect of evidence extracted under torture being used for intelligence purposes.
 
Under the proposals, the penalties associated with the current offence of “justification” of terrorism, which includes the “humiliation” of victims of terrorism or their families, would be increased, and aggravating circumstances would include dissemination of messages online or through the media.
 
The rights to freedom of expression and association, the presumption of innocence, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, and the right to leave and return to one’s country would all be under threat if the amendments are adopted. 
 
Julia Hall, Amnesty’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, said:
 
“The proposed definition of terrorism includes so many crimes that it is rendered virtually meaningless. 
 
“It would seem that anything from certain forms of expression and association to hacking and travelling could be labelled and prosecuted as terrorism. The suggested definition is overly broad and some elements so vague that even a seasoned lawyer would have trouble knowing for certain what would constitute a terrorist act. 
 
“What Spain needs to fight terrorism is the exact opposite: an exact and legally-precise definition of what crimes constitute ‘terrorism’. And any new measures must be necessary and proportionate to the actual threat.
 
“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks and stepped-up counter-terrorism initiatives across Europe, governments must remain vigilant to ensure that their efforts to thwart future attacks do not come at the expense of human rights. Respecting human rights is essential to maintaining security and not an obstacle to keeping people safe.” 
 

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