Human Rights Watch welcomes that Spain’s Universal Periodic Review addressed key issues of concern, and acknowledge that Spain accepted many important recommendations. We remain concerned about legislation and practices in Spain that undermine the rights of migrants and asylum seekers; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; sexual and reproductive rights; and the rights to an effective defense and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Migration and asylum policy
We welcome that Spain accepted recommendations to fully respect the principle of non-refoulement, to ensure effective access to asylum procedures, and to ensure that the national legal framework in this respect is in compliance with Spain’s international human rights obligations. In practice however, the government implemented in April 2015 legislative changes to formalize the unlawful practice of summarily returning migrants, including possible asylum seekers, from Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco. We urge Spain to repeal these provisions in order to comply fully with its international human rights obligations to ensure the right to seek asylum and access to effective remedies.
Sexual and reproductive rights
We deeply regret that States failed to recommend that Spain abandon proposed changes to domestic law that place unjustified restrictions on the sexual and reproductive rights of girls. While the government withdrew plans to roll back access to safe and legal abortions for adult women, it has pursued legislation, recently approved by the lower legislative chamber, that would require 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy, even in cases where this could place them at risk of serious conflict, violence, or abuse. Under the bill, the refusal to give consent could only be challenged in court, which raises concerns that decisions may not be taken in an expeditious manner. Spain should abandon this effort to curtail access to safe and legal abortions.
Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and association
We welcome Spain’s acceptation of a number of recommendations to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including by revising existing laws and refraining from adopting new legislation placing undue restrictions and deterrents on the exercise of these rights.
However, the new Public Security Law, to enter into effect on July 1, will unduly limit when and where protests may take place, and allow administrative authorities to impose steep fines on spontaneous protests. Similarly, the law permits high fines for the vague criminal charge of “lack of respect” for law enforcement officers, which risks stifling freedom of speech. We urge Spain to repeal these and other problematic aspects of the Public Security Law.
We deeply regret that Spain continues to reject recommendations to abolish incommunicado detention for terrorism suspects, made in this and its previous review. Under this regime, suspects have delayed and severely curtailed access to a legal counsel, affecting their right to an effective defense. The Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have called on Spain to abrogate incommunicado detention because it may facilitate torture and constitute in and of itself a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.