SPAIN: Human rights organisations demand from the Ministry of Interior that the police forces act with proportionality during the state of emergency

Article originally published in Spanish on Defender A Quien Defiende, 25 March 2020 – accessible here

The organisations, led by the Defend Who Defends Platform, demand that at least four situations of institutional violence are investigated.
In a letter to the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and to the Ombudsman, Francisco Fernández, human rights organisations such as Novact, Irídia, Legal Sol, Institut de Drets Humans de Catalunya, Calala, Ecologistas en Acción, Stop Represión Granada and the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, grouped in the Plataforma Defender a Quien Defiende, together with other human rights organisations such as the Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados, the Cooperativa Red Jurídica, the Associació Catalana per a la Defensa dels Drets Humans, the Grupo Motor de No Somos Delito and the Observatorio del Sistema Penal y los Derechos Humanos of the UB, have reported that agents from the National Police Force, in at least four occasions, allegedly used unauthorised force by the regulations of action against citizens within the framework of the State of Emergency, decreed by the Government for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of this situation, they demand that internal channels of investigation and accountability are activated, and that the actions of the police and security forces are subject to the principle of legality and respect for fundamental rights. They also consider that in cases where there are indications of crimes committed by the agents, the Ministry must urgently activate all the investigation mechanisms and report to the judicial authorities.
In the four cases, documented through recordings of citizens who reported the events through social networks, it can be seen how, in different parts of the country, agents of the National Police Force slap, assault with a service weapon or violently restrain and insult people who are walking on the streets. All these actions, despite the State of Emergency, are contrary to the principles of conformity to the law, necessity and proportionality that should drive any police action.

Although we are faced with an exceptional situation that legally provides for the limitation of freedom of movement, according to the provisions of Royal Decree 463/2020, the Ministry of the Interior and the Directorate General of the National Police Force have a legal obligation to protect the rights of citizens in the actions of their agents and to ensure that the democratic framework of fundamental rights rules all institutional actions.
Along the same lines, United Nations experts, together with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, have recently issued two different statements urging states to manage the COVID-19 pandemic under a human rights approach, while recalling that declarations of states of emergency are regulated by international law, so that they cannot be used “for repressive action under the pretext of protecting health”.