Sunday

21st Apr 2019

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.

... or 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 Once we are in the government it will be repealed”, said social democrat leader Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday (1 July) when the law came into force.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.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us