Commissioner urges Spain to ensure that the Law on Citizens’ Safety upholds the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly

(Council of Europe) In a letter addressed to the Presidents of the Congress and the Senate of Spain published today, Commissioner Mijatović urges the Parliament to ensure that the review of the Law on Citizens’ Safety eliminates possibilities of disproportionate interference with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Welcoming the review of the 2015 Law on Citizens’ Safety, the Commissioner expresses her concerns about the reported negative impact this law has had on the enjoyment of human rights

“The broad and imprecise wording of the Law as a whole gives a wide margin of discretion to law enforcement forces in interpreting it and thus allows for potentially disproportionate and arbitrary limitations to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, as protected under the European Convention on Human Rights,” she writes in the letter.

The Commissioner underscores that the application of the law has resulted in sanctions imposed on unclear grounds, sanctions against journalists filming law enforcement forces and in a large number of fines, sometimes heavy, being imposed on persons taking part in peaceful demonstrations and other public gatherings. She also expresses her concerns about the possibility of imposing sanctions on persons convoking non-notified demonstrations and the fact that the law makes it possible to impose high fines in case of public disorders occurring in the context of demonstrations carried out in the vicinity of the Congress, Senate and other elected bodies, even when they are not in sitting.

As regards the part of the Law which introduced special provisions regarding foreigners entering Ceuta and Melilla, the Commissioner stresses that “these amendments to the Aliens’ Act fail to provide clear guarantees against refoulement and collective expulsions as well as adequate safeguards for the right of every person to seek asylum, irrespective of the way they reach Spanish territory. I therefore strongly recommend that an obligation be imposed on the authorities to provide without delay the Guardia Civil with clear and mandatory guidance on how to act in compliance with international human rights standards when intercepting migrants at the borders of Ceuta and Melilla.”