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 in June 2016 to be free and fair.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses during the year.
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.
There were two high-profile terrorist attacks during the year. On August 17, Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van onto the pavement of Barcelona‘s La Rambla street, and struck and killed 15 persons. In his escape the driver killed another person. On August 21, police shot and killed Abouyaaqoub when he resisted arrest. On August 18, Houssaine Abouyaaqoub, Omar Hichamy, Mohamed Hichamy, Moussa Oukabir, and Said Aalla drove a car into another crowd in Cabrils and killed one person. Police shot and killed the five attackers. Police later arrested four other men in connection with the attacks.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.
The constitution and laws prohibit such practices. 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 2016 there were 117 reports of mistreatment of persons in custody that involved 259 persons. In 2015 there were 128 reports of mistreatment that involved 232 persons.
On October 1, the regional government of Catalonia held a referendum on independence that the national court previously declared unconstitutional. On orders of the Catalan Supreme Court, police units (consisting of National Police, Civil Guard, and the Catalan regional police, Mossos d’Esquadra) attempted to close illegal polling stations and seize illegal voting material. The Catalan regional government alleged that more than 800 persons were injured in clashes with police, and police unions reported that more than 400 police officers were injured. On October 2, several judges opened an investigation into the actions of Mossos d’Esquadra for allegedly failing to assist National Police and Civil Guard units. On October 12, Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged an “excessive use of force” against protesters by police during the event.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions mostly met international standards. The government operated all detention facilities.
The UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture, NGOs, the national police union, and an association of judges criticized Internment Centers for Foreigners (CIEs) for a variety of reasons, including alleged violation of human rights, overcrowding, prison-like treatment, and lack of interpreters. The law sets the maximum time for detainees in CIEs at 60 days. Only judges have the authority to send individuals to CIEs.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions, although several organizations alleged that overcrowding was a problem in some CIEs.
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.
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Police forces include the national police and the paramilitary 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.
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. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.
The constitution provides for an ombudsman to investigate claims of police abuse. In 2016 the ombudsman received eight complaints for police mistreatment and 46 for incorrect police treatment. These figures represented a decrease in number cases of police abuse reported in prior years.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
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 their 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 appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) once domestic avenues for appeal have been exhausted.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
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, 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. The government provides free interpretation as necessary from the moment the defendant is charged through all appeals. During the trial defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses, and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right of appeal.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
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.
As a signatory to the Terezin Declaration, the government acknowledges the right to restitution and/or compensation to victims of Holocaust-related confiscations of property. The local NGO Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain reported that there are no existing or prior cases of compensation or restitution in Spain stemming from the Holocaust.
The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.