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July 11, 2014
July 11, 2014

Spain: The government approved the law that will prohibit demonstrations in front of the Parliament

Translator: Susana García
Source: Diagonal  Category: Protest
This article is also available in: eles
Spain: The government approved the law that will prohibit demonstrations in front of the Parliament

The Ministry of Interior announces the approval of the law that turns demonstrating in front of the Parliament and photographing police officers into a serious offence. Fernández Díaz defends the guaranteeism of the regulation, which has been criticised for giving police more room for manoeuvre.

Since November 2013 when the Minister of Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, announced the intention to reform the Citizen Security Law, many things have been written about the meaning and the legitimacy of the regulation that will replace the one known as “Corcuera Law”, which has been in force since 1992. At the press conference following the Minister Cabinet meeting, the Minister of Interior insisted that the new regulation, criticised for giving more discretionary powers to the police to control conducts that were previously sanctioned under penal law, will meet all guarantees. In response to one question by Carlos E. Cue, a journalist of El País, the Minister offered a good summary of what it can be expected from now on: with the new law, the protest in front of the Catalan Parliament in June 2011 “would not have been totally absolved by means of criminal law”, but it would have received a penalty adequate to the behaviours that we saw in the mass media”. This would have meant a fine up to 30,000€ for the activists acquitted last week by the Audiencia Nacional (National Court).

Since the Government announced its first intentions until its final version, the text has undergone important changes, mainly by the hand of the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial – CGPJ), which elaborated a prior report about the Citizen Security Law draft bill, where they called into question its constitutionality. Different experts have noted that the first intention of the Government was to launch a trial balloon. A trial balloon that, according to lawyer Eduardo Gómez Cuadrado, was an element that distanced the Spanish State from European democracies and brought it closer to authoritarianism. Even Nil Muiznieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the European Council, came to affirm that he would closely watch this process, stating: “I want someone to convince me that a 30,000€ fine for demonstrating in front of governmental institutions without authorisation is balanced”. It has not been the only warning of this kind. On  the 12th of June, the special UN reporter on the rights to freedom of assembly, Maina Kiai, expressed his “deep concern regarding the current drafting which marks as crime the mere peaceful resistance and the wide leeway of interpretation derived from the text regarding the incitement to commit actions or threats of acts of violence”. The text has also been polemic due to the inclusion of fines -between 600€ and 30,000€- for anyone taking photos of police during protests “without undermining the right of information”.

Waiting still to find out the details which will be appearing in the regulation, the draft bill seeks two essential objectives. On the one hand, a “hyperregulation”, in lawyer Hibai Arbide´s words, given that the current law did not have a proper typification for many of the new forms of protest popularised after 15M, such as Stop Desahucios or escraches. On the other hand, and in Joaquim Bosch´s words, spokesman of the Judges for Democracy, it is about acting under the logic of the so-called Enemy Criminal Law, which treats citizens as a menace. Over this same concept, Ignacio Trillo and Eric Sanz de Bremmond discussed in the blog La Conquista del Derecho that “this concept of the Criminal Law seeks to punish, rather than what you do, what you are able to do based on who you are, or even who the State considers you are”.

Racist raids ban

Among the few details Fernández Díaz has given, the minister has referred to the criteria the police should follow during identification procedures, and he has marked that these should respect the principles of non discrimination and proportionality. The minister of Interior has stressed that the regulation will specifically ban controls based on racial profile, the so-called “racists raids”, where the police searches for people without resident visa, something that, according to his statement, to date it was only banned by internal police notices. The current Citizen Security Law only allows identifications “for uncovering and detention of participants in a criminal offence which causes serious social alarm”, however, it did not specifically ban controls based on racial profile.

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