Spain: Out of the shadows - Time to end incommunicado detention

Report
September 15, 2009

Spain: Out of the shadows - Time to end incommunicado detention


  • Individuals held incommunicado do not have the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their own choice. Legal assistance is provided by a duty lawyer appointed by the Bar Association, on request of the police.

  • Individuals held incommunicado do not have the right to consult with a lawyer in private at any time during their detention incommunicado (both in police custody and on remand).

  • Individuals held incommunicado do not have the right to communicate, or have communicated, to a family member or other person of their choice the fact and place of their detention. Foreign nationals do not have the right to have such information communicated to their consulate.

  • Individuals held incommunicado do not have the right to a medical examination by a doctor of their own choice.27

  • Individuals held on suspicion of involvement in terrorism-related offences or organised crime - whether or not they are being held incommunicado – may be held in police custody for up to five days (120 hours) after arrest before being presented to a judicial authority.



Amnesty International notes the "Protocol for the Coordination of Assistance to Persons Detained Incommunicado" and the "Assistance Service for Relatives of Incommunicado Detainees" introduced by the Basque Government (Department of Interior, in consultation with the Department of Justice, Labour and Social Security and Department of Health) in 2003 for the Basque autonomous police force (Ertzaintza). The main features of the protocols include additional and more comprehensive medical exams of detainees, and the facilitation of information to incommunicado detainees' relatives concerning their whereabouts and physical condition. These protocols represent an improvement on standard Spanish legislation, but do not counteract the most serious concerns regarding such legislation. Although no detainees were held in incommunicado detention by the Ertzaintza in 2007 or 2008,28 Amnesty International noted with deep regret reports that at least one person has been held incommunicado by the Ertzaintza since March 2009.29

In January 2008 it was announced that the Spanish Ministry of Interior was taking measures to install video surveillance cameras to monitor incommunicado detainees throughout the entire period of detention. This proposal was also included in the National Human Rights Plan, made public on 10 December 2008. The move was intended to help prevent possible ill-treatment of detainees, and to deter false allegations of ill-treatment from being made. Amnesty International strongly welcomes this initiative, but remains concerned that it is not fully comprehensive, as it does not include recording in interrogation rooms.