SPAIN: COVID-19, health alert must not normalize laws that violate human rights

Article originally published on Defender A Quien Defiende, 19 March 2020 – accessible here

At Defender a Quien Defiende, we alert on how the securitarian vision of political, social or health issues (such as the current case of COVID-19 crisis) favours the application of punitivism and repression as a solution, instead of approaching safety from the perspective of economic resources, healthcare and common infrastructure. In this sense, we focus on how the Citizen Security Law (Gag Law) and the Criminal Code are being enforced on people who do not comply with the restrictions set by the Government.

The Spanish government hasn’t had the need of developing an ad hoc legislation for the citizens who do not respect these measures during the current state of emergency. The legislative framework approved by an absolute majority of the PP in 2015 is already restrictive enough to punish through the Criminal Code and/or to sanction administrative offences using the Gag Law.

Security officials will now be able to resort to Article 36.6 of the Gag Law, which regulates serious offences with fines between 601 and 30,000 euros. In its sixth point it introduces sanctions for: “disobedience or resistance to authority or its officials exercising their duties”. 

On the other hand, article 556 of the Criminal Code establishes a prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of 6 to 18 months for those who “seriously resist or disobey the authority or its officials exercising their duties”.

These laws were going to be repealed and/or reformed by the current government as they are thought to violate mainly the right to assembly and demonstration, as well as the right to freedom of expression.

Currently, the security-focused mindset and warlike-approach in which we are living are at the laundering service of repressive laws such as these, which systematically limit the rights and freedom of all people. Especially the most vulnerable groups, who are suffering the most from the consequences of the COVID-19 and also from the measures which are supposed to protect us.  It has not even been a week since the state of emergency has been in effect and thousands of people have been identified and reported. Around fifty people have been arrested so far. Anti-racist organisations have already complained about police raids on ethnic-racial grounds.

Five years ago, organisations, social movements and human rights defenders mobilised against the implementation of the Gag Laws (Criminal Code Reform and Citizen Security Law) as an instrument to systematically limit and violate human rights. Today, more than ever, we will not cease to defend human rights. Not even once the state of emergency is over. 

At Defender a Quien Defiende, we gather information about the violations of and damage to human rights in the context of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, we monitor the repression of human rights defenders and the abuses in the implementation of the Citizen Security Law.

Since Saturday 14 March, the Criminal Code and the Gag Law seem to be more useful than ever. However, let us not forget that without rights there is no security. Let us not normalise repression. Let us not accept the loss of rights due to fear. 

Translated from Spanish from