Spain shamed by police

Police kick protestor in Madrid demonstration

Police kick protestor in Madrid demonstration

© Eduardo León

14 November 2007

Spanish police are getting away with repeated acts of torture and other ill-treatment, according to a new Amnesty International report.

The report highlights cases of people who have been hit, kicked, punched and verbally abused by police officers, both in police custody and on the street. Some complainants report being being beaten while handcuffed. Others claim they were threatened with a gun or knife, whipped on the soles of their feet and subjected to death threats.

In one case, a detainee was told that if he did not cooperate, police officers would rape his girlfriend. In another, a man lost hearing in one ear for several weeks as a result of blows to the head from officers.

Research indicates that such cases are not isolated incidents, but examples of pervasive and structural shortcomings in the prevention, investigation and punishment of torture and other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International considers the reluctance of successive Spanish governments to address this problem is exacerbating the climate of impunity which fosters further incidents of ill-treatment.

"The Spanish authorities must end the state of denial regarding torture and other ill-treatment by police officers," said Amnesty International researcher Rachel Taylor.

Victims of ill treatment and torture by the police are frequently denied justice. Court decisions are often biased towards police testimony, while victims of abuse may end up in prison and have their lives and careers ruined.

"Police officers often take the law in their own hands, while the authorities turn a blind eye to their practices which are in clear violation of Spain's international legal obligations. Torture may not be routine but it goes unchecked despite Spain’s commitments under international law," said Rachel Taylor.

The factors contributing to effective impunity for police officers include: obstacles to lodging a complaint; incomplete or inaccurate medical reports; intimidation of complainants by the police and failure to punish the officers responsible due to their non-identification.

"Until the government takes effective action to investigate allegations and bring to justice all those responsible for torture and other ill-treatment, police officers will remain above the law and the climate of impunity will spread," said Rachel Taylor said.

Spain: End impunity for police officers who commit acts of torture and other ill-treatment

Index Number: EUR 41/007/2007
Date Published: 13 November 2007
Categories: Spain

For many years, Amnesty International has expressed serious concerns regarding torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment committed by law enforcement officials in Spain and the effective impunity they enjoy in relation to these acts. Amnesty International considers that the continuing allegations of ill-treatment by police officers result from multiple failings by the Spanish authorities to comply with their international legal obligations which require them to take a range of measures to prevent ill-treatment.

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