Wednesday

22nd Aug 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.

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 Once we are in the government it will be repealed”, said social democrat leader Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday (1 July) when the law came into force.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

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

Analysis

Macron's first test has come

The French president is seeing his authority weakened by revelations over one of his bodyguards - and this could affect his capacity to reform.

Malta's PM cleared of Panama Papers wrongdoing

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat says a year long probe has dispelled allegations he, his wife and political associates were involved in money laundering or fraud.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Opinion

While Poles defend courts, Kaczynski hijacks EU elections

While Twitter and EU bubble publications are flooded with photos of protesting crowds and "chains of light" in front of the presidential palace, the Law and Justice-controlled senate has adopted a law restructuring the electoral code for 2019's European elections.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. 'Final phase' Brexit talks to go on 'continuously'
  2. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  3. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  4. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  5. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  6. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  7. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  8. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us