Amnesty International blasts Spain on human-rights violations

For the first time since the establishment of democracy in Spain, Amnesty International, the London-based human-rights organization, has published a report that is highly critical of the Spanish situation.

The Dec. 2 report provides detailed information on 14 cases of alleged torture that took place in five police stations and civil-guard garrisons in Madrid, Barcelona, and in the troubled northwest Basque country. The cases were compiled during an investigation carried out by a team of Amnesty lawyers and doctors in Spain in October 1979.

According to Amnesty, at the outset of the democracy in 1977 there was a marked improvement in the treatment of prisoners, and fundamental rights, such as habeas corpus, were written into the new 1978 Constitution. Since then, however, the report maintains two anti-terrorist laws were decreed in Spain (on Dec. 4, 1978, and on Jan. 3, 1979) "that facilitated a deterioration in the treatment of prisoners."

What Amnesty particularly objects to in these decrees is that they allow people suspected of participating in terrorist organizations or suspected sympathizers to be held incommunicado for up to 10 days, without any specific charges being brought, and without the prisoner being allowed access to a lawyer.

As such, the decree laws do not differ substantially from legislation introduced in other European countries to combat terrorism. However, a striking feature of the report is the level of brutality described.

Of the 14 cases mentioned, 13 allege that they were subjected to threats against their own person and their relatives; five claim they were subjected to simulated executions; 11 claim they were deprived of sleep for prolonged periods of time. In two cases the prisoners said they were forced to drink coffee containing hallucinogens.

Other alleged forms of torture included beatings, electic shock, and near suffocation by having plastic bags placed over the prisoner's head.

The cases include that of Emilio Gines Santidrian, an architect who claims he was detained by police in Madrid Feb. 11, 1979, and then tortured for seven days in the principal state security building in the center of the capital; five cases in Barcelona, including that of a woman; and seven cases in the Basque country, including that of Xavier Onaindia Ribera, a doctor from Bilbao.

In no single case, the report affirms, were specific charges ever brought against the prisoners and all of them were released, either immediately after being tortured, or after being held for a further three weeks to five months in prison. All 14 prisoners also denounced the alleged torture they had received on being released. However, none of these denunciations has yet been taken up by Spanish courts, Amnesty says.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.