Monday

25th Jun 2018

Spain's 'gag' law comes into force

  • In front of Spain's parliament - the law restricts demonstrations near the parliament, senate and regional parliaments (Photo: rusty426)

Spain's highly controversial anti-protest law came into effect this week amid criticism that it hands the government the "judge and jury" right to silence its critics.

The new law, approved by the governing right-wing Partido Popular led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, is seen as a threat to basic human rights such as the freedoms of expression and assembly.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • A group of people protesting in Barcelona (Photo: Jordi Boixareu)

The Citizens’ Security Law - also called the 'Gag Law' by its opponents - has been heavily criticised by opposition parties, judges, lawyers, NGOs, civil society and human rights experts from both the UN and the Council of Europe.

Only 7 percent of citizens support the law, according to a survey made by Metroscopia for Avaaz late last year.

The reform came after years of social unrest in Spain aggravated by the economic crisis, widespread political corruption and the failure to renew Spanish politics.

This led to a spike in demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, blocking of home evictions and gatherings in front of politicians' homes.

All opposition parties have already said they will void the law if they reach a majority in the Spanish general election later this year.

“The 'gag law' will last as long as the government of Rajoy. Once we are in the government it will be repealed”, said social democrat leader Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday (1 July) when the law came into force.

“We will continue, change cannot be silenced,” said Pablo Iglesias, leader of the leftist Podemos party.

Restrictions include demonstrating near the parliament, senate and regional parliaments, which could lead to fines of up to €600,000.

The police will also be able to fine people taking part in peaceful resistance or sit-ins in public places if a “relevant authority” has ordered the break-up of the gathering.

The new law also criminalises the blocking of home evictions - an activity that has become very common in Spain since the beginning of the economic crisis where many have lost their homes as they have lost their jobs and been unable to pay their mortgages.

The police will also be able to fine anyone “climbing buildings or monuments without authorisation when there is a clear risk of damage to persons or goods”.

The new law also goes beyond the streets and puts limits on what is allowed on social networks - one of the major channels for the social protest movement.

People writing on their twitter or facebook account that “there will be a demonstration today at Puerta del Sol at 7pm” can be held responsible for that same demonstration.

Minor offences will see penalities of €100 to €600, serious offences between €601 and €30,000, and very serious offences between €30,000 and €600,000.

Interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz Wednesday said that "with time, many of the doubts and criticisms will have no basis", adding that the regulation is to "preserve with more legal guarantees" the security of citizens.

But Judge Joaquim Bosch, spokesperson for Judges for Democracy, disagrees.

Judge and jury

“It is not a law for citizens’ security, but a law for the government to avoid citizens’ protests. All opinion polls indicate that the Spanish society is not at all preoccupied by security but by the economic situation and political corruption.”

The main problem with the law, he says, is that it wants to bypass legal courts taking decisions on behaviours that affect fundamental rights.

“The political power pretends to directly punish, through administrative bodies, certain incidents closely linked to the freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate.”

“This way the government converts itself into the judge and jury to silence the criticism of its management,” he continues.

Justice Bosch also takes issue with penal code reforms - which also entered into force on Wednesday - that introduce prison sentences for those who peacefully protest inside a bank or for those who diffuse content on social networks that could affect public order.

“Penalities have been toughened. This is unnecessary in a country that has the lowest levels in the number of crimes per capita in Europe,” he notes.

Analysis

Greece facing post-bailout challenges

Creditors are expected to agree Thursday on a final loan and debt relief measures for Greece. After eight years on an international lifeline, the country will remain under close surveillance - but will have to find a new economic model.

Basque threat of 'second front' for independence

Last weekend some 175,000 people in the Basque country demanded a 'right to decide'. For some, it means more autonomy from Spain, others independence. "We want to open a second front within the Spanish state," says one Basque politician.

Catalonia diplomats back in action abroad

The new regional government is to reopen its representations aboard. In Brussels, its new foreign minister Ernest Maragall insisted that it wanted to show "responsibility".

News in Brief

  1. Nine countries to sign up for Macron's military initiative
  2. Re-elected Erdogan potentially in power until 2028
  3. Macron's popularity drops among French pensioners
  4. Tajani calls for €6bn investment to halt migration
  5. Major demo in London for second EU referendum
  6. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  7. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  8. EU closes deficit procedure against France

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  2. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  4. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  5. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  11. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  12. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform

Latest News

  1. Progressive CAP alternative only hope for sustainability
  2. Ponytailed green MEP joins 'the other side of the table'
  3. EU leaders still in search of migration plan
  4. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  5. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  6. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  7. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  8. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  3. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  5. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  8. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  10. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  11. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us