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Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Spain is a parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarch. The country has a bicameral parliament, the General Courts or National Assembly, consisting of the Congress of Deputies (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). The head of the largest political party or coalition usually is named to head the government as president of the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of prime minister. Observers considered national elections held on June 26 free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems included denial of access to asylum and summary forced returns of asylum seekers by police, systemic corruption by government officials, and violence against women and children.

Other problems included the circulation of hate speech on the internet; inequality of opportunity and pay for women in the workplace; subjection of women and girls to sex trafficking; acts of anti-Semitic vandalism; and societal discrimination and violence against persons with disabilities, Muslims, ethnic minorities, including Roma, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The government generally took steps to prosecute officials, both in the security services and elsewhere in the government, who committed abuses. In some instances officials engaged in corruption and created the impression of impunity.

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

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

The constitution and laws prohibit such practices, and the government normally respected this prohibition. There were reports of police mistreatment; courts dismissed some of the reports.

According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Coordinator for the Prevention of Torture, in 2015 there were 128 reports of mistreatment of persons in custody, affecting 232 persons (a decline from 194 reports and 961 affected persons in 2014).

On May 31, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) condemned the government for not investigating properly the alleged torture of Beortegui Martinez, a member of the terrorist organization ETA, by four Civil Guard police officers during his detention in 2011.

The constitution provides for an ombudsman who investigates claims of police abuse. From January to June, the national ombudsman filed 494 ex officio judicial complaints, a significant decrease compared with the same period in 2015. In 2015 the Office of the Ombudsman processed 18,467 complaints.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions mostly met international standards.

The NGO Pueblos Unidos denounced the conditions found in government-operated foreign internment centers (CIE)–processing centers for irregular migrants–and likened them to prisons. A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior explained that irregular migrants spent an average of 27 days in the centers.

Physical Conditions: In 2015 (the most recent information available), according to the Coordinator for the Prevention of Torture, 30 persons died in custody.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, including the Coordinator for the Prevention of Torture and the UN Human Rights Committee, in accordance with their standard modalities.

Improvements: In March the government doubled to 853,500 euros ($938,900) its funding to support additional Red Cross social programs and humanitarian assistance in CIEs. The government also created a monitoring committee to track improvements in CIE service delivery to irregular migrants.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.


Police forces include the national police and the Civil Guard (both of which handle migration and border enforcement under the authority of the national Ministry of the Interior) as well as regional police under the authority of the Catalan and the Basque Country regional governments. The respective civilian authorities maintained effective control over all police forces and the Civil Guard, and the government generally has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.


The law provides that police may apprehend suspects for probable cause or with a warrant based on sufficient evidence as determined by a judge. With certain exceptions, police may not hold a suspect for more than 72 hours without a hearing. In certain rare instances involving acts of terrorism, the law allows authorities, with the authorization of a judge, to detain persons for up to five days prior to arraignment. These rights were respected. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The country has a functioning bail system, and the courts released defendants on bail unless they believed the defendants might flee or be a threat to public safety. If a potential criminal sentence is less than three years, the judge can decide to impose bail or release the accused on his own recognizance. If the potential sentence is more than three years, the judge must set bail. The law provides detainees the right to consult a lawyer of their choice. If the detainee is indigent, the government appoints legal counsel. There were at times delays of up to several hours between the time a detained person first requested a lawyer and the time the lawyer arrived at the place of detention.

In certain rare instances involving acts of terrorism, a judge may order incommunicado or solitary detention for the entire duration of police custody. The law stipulates that terrorism suspects held incommunicado have the right to an attorney and medical care, but it allows them neither to choose an attorney nor to see a physician of their choice. The court-appointed lawyer is present during police and judicial proceedings, but detainees do not have the right to confer in private with the lawyer. The government continued to conduct extensive video surveillance in detention facilities and interrogation rooms ostensibly to deter mistreatment or any violations of prisoner rights by police or guards.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested and detained are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and to obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained. They may also seek to appeal to the ECHR.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.


The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, and the independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and the right to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to an attorney of their choice. If the defendant is indigent, the government appoints an attorney. Defendants and their attorneys have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and have access to government-held evidence. During the trial defendants may confront witnesses, and present their witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right of appeal. These rights apply to all defendants without discrimination.


There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.


Individuals or organizations may bring civil lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation. The complainant may also pursue an administrative resolution. Persons may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the ECHR after they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

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