Society 14/04/2022

Home Affairs Dpt takes eight years to create a commission to compensate police victims

Parliament agreed in 2013 to compensate victims financially after the Ester Quintana case

4 min
The Mossos d'Esquadra acting during the demonstration for the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél in Barcelona

BarcelonaFive months ago Parliament set up a commission to debates on the policing model of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police force. It is the same commission that was set up in 2013 after Ester Quintana who lost an eye after police fired rubber bullets on protesters during a general strike. The commission proposed a ban on the use of rubber bullets by the Mossos, alongside another 48 suggestions. At least the last two have not been fulfilled. One of these states that Department of Home Affairs had to draft a protocol to pay compensation to victims of actions by the Catalan police. The protocol was approved in 2014, but to implement it, a commission to repair the damage had to be created, which Home Affairs has taken eight years to create: just a month ago, in March, the first meeting was convened.

According to the documentation obtained by ARA through a freedom of information request, the then minister Ramon Espadaler signed the protocol, which stated that as soon as the Department found "through whatever means" that a person had suffered a damage or injury due to an intervention by the Mossos in riots or disorders – which need not be illegal – it would consider paying compensation. And this process could be started either by the Department or at the request of the affected person, but first the commission needs to be created. But under Espadaler this did not happen, neither did it happen under According to the documentation obtained by ARA through a freedom of information request, the then minister Ramon Espadaler signed the protocol, which stated that as soon as the Department found "through whatever means" that a person had suffered a damage or injury due to an intervention by the Mossos in riots or disorders – which need not be illegal – it would consider paying compensation. And this process could be started either by the Department or at the request of the affected person, but first the commission needs to be created. But under Espadaler this did not happen, neither did it happen under ministers Jordi Jané, Joaquim Forn and Miquel Buch. In the intervening years, the Mossos have continued causing injuries, especially in 2019, during the mobilisations following the sentencing of the leaders of the Independence bid.

In February last year, after a 19-year-old girl's eye was emptied in an intervention on the first night of protests over the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél, the then minister Miquel Sàmper, announced that he would activate the protocol to compensate the victim . According to Sàmper, "everything indicated" that a foam bullet from the Mossos had caused the loss of the eye. For the first time since 2014, Sàmper recovered the agreement to create the commission and named the members who had to be part of it: the head of the technical cabinet of Home Affairs, a commissioner of the Mossos Headquarters, the head of the police's legal services and the head of Home Affairs' the legal services. But the commission was never set up and after three months, in May, Sàmper handed over the portfolio to the current minister Joan Ignasi Elena.

As a result of the change of positions due to the political changeover, in November Elena made an appointment but the commission was still not created. The ARA asked in February of this year to consult the minutes of the meetings of the commission, the protocol and the people who had integrated it. The response from Home Affairs is that the commission was constituted on March 3. According to the minutes of this first meeting, the only case that was evaluated was that of the girl who lost her eye in February last year. It was agreed to request a report from the Mossos on the action and to activate the victim support unit of Home Affairs to contact the girl, more than a year later, to offer her care services, as provided for in the protocol.

Outside the courts

"We set it up it because it is a prior commitment," Elena assures on the fact that the commission that had been agreed in 2013 has finally been created, and for that reason he argues that it does not interfere with the commission that has now been set up in Parliament: "We are not getting ahead of ourselves." The minister believes it is "very reasonable" for Home Affairs to follow up on "all the consequences" derived from police actions regardless of the outcome of cases in court. The commission, as the protocol states, has to meet at least every quarter, and will only pay compensation once the criminal proceedings have ended in the courts, because if the sentence already demands compensation for the victim no further amount will be paid. Nor will it be paid if a final ruling states that the affected party was involved in a criminal activity. It is also established that in one month there must be a first analysis of each case that reaches the commission.

The report by the girl who lost her eye in the protests over Hasél is being completed and is expected to be finished after Easter, the Department says. Even so, in this case there may not be an immediate agreement because a court is still investigating two police officers who fired foam bullets . According to the protocol, the damages or injuries the commission can decide on must be permanent and always personal. Although the 2013 agreement provided that compensation would also be retroactive, Elena explains that the idea is that the commission will analyse the victims from now on of police action, both ex officio and because those affected request it, although it does not close the door to old cases.

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