Society 10/11/2021

Council of Europe denounces "pattern" of physical abuse of prisoners and detainees in Spain

The body again calls on the Spanish government to take measures to prevent police abuse

2 min
A picture of a state prison , in an archive image.

ParisIt is not the first time that the Council of Europe - a European regional body in defense of human rights - denounces police abuse in the State, but in the report published on Tuesday the organisation goes further and warns that these are not isolated cases but that the mistreatment has become an all too frequent practice. "It is a matter of great concern", the document states. After a visit to different prisons - mostly in Madrid, Valencia and Seville - by members of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and interviewing dozens of prisoners in September 2020, the Council of Europe concludes that "there continues to be a pattern of physical abuse inflicted by prison officers as a disproportionate and punitive reaction" to the behaviour of some prisoners, and calls on Pedro Sánchez's government to take steps to curb police violence.

The Committee warns that police abuse occurs not only on the prison population but also during arrests and interrogations in police stations. The report underlines that, although most of the people interviewed stated that they had been treated "correctly" by the police forces, the Committee has received "a significant number" of complaints of ill-treatment, including of minors, mainly involving the National Police. These include "slaps, punches and kicks to the body and face, sometimes also with blows from truncheons and other objects", the report states.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture gives full credibility to the allegations. The document details that the violence reported was consistent with medical reports, visible injuries and, sometimes, witnesses. In fact, the report lists some of the cases and even provides photographs of people who have allegedly suffered assaults at the hands of the police. In some cases, a formal complaint has been lodged, but in others the victims do not dare to complain and have asked the members of the Council of Europe not to reveal their identity.

Broken ribs and assaults on minors

Among the examples given in the report is that of a man arrested in a park in Valencia in August 2020. While standing with his hands up, as the officer had asked him to do, a second policeman approached him from behind and hit him in the chest with a truncheon, causing him to fall to the ground. The blow was so severe that it fractured two of his ribs. The police report indicated that the man had self-injured himself. In another case, a minor complained that, when he arrived at the police station in Madrid, an officer put a blanket over his head and hit him on the legs with a truncheon. Later, another officer enters the cell and throws a lighter in his face, causing a bloody wound, and a third police officer allegedly slaps and kicks him in the legs.

"The ill-treatment was allegedly inflicted as a means of forcing suspects to provide information, confess to certain crimes or to punish them for the alleged crime committed", the report states. The Committee also denounces verbal abuse by police officers, including racist insults to foreigners "because of the colour of their skin or their origin", and over-tightened handcuffs.