SPAIN: CSOs call for reform of Gag Law within six months to protect the right to protest 

Article written for the Civic Space Watch by ECF members on 03/07/2023.

On June 29th, marking the eight years since Citizen Security Law, known as the Gag Law, entered into force, eight civil society organisations called on political parties to urgently reform the “Gag law” and some articles of the Penal Code, line with the recommendations by the Venice Commission and international human rights standards. 

In a statement, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Irídia, Novact, Defender a Quien Defiende, Sol Legal Commission, Rights International Spain and the No Somos Delito platform highlighted how the law continues to have a negative impact on the exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, especially on human rights defenders and journalists.  

The Gag Law has been criticised since it was passed due to multiple factors , such as the discretionary powers that it gives to police officers, the increase of infractions that it establishes compared to the previous law, and the difficulty to appeal against a sanction (because of the veracity presumption that police officers have, and because of the bureaucracy and technicality to do so). The language that is used in the law has been a target of criticism because it is very ambiguous, which, in practice, allows irregular and arbitrary actions in police interventions. 

Since its passing, more than 250,000 people have been sanctioned, including activists and journalists, for peacefully exercising their right to protest or when attempting to document police action. Additionally, dozen’s of social organisations have been fined. 

As reported in our annual civic space report on Spain, although the government initiated a reform process for the law, it has failed to consult with civil society organisations adequately, who raised concerns over several problematic provisions which remain.