Amnesty warns Spain of infringement of human rights

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has said that Spain’s new proposals for dealing with crimes of terrorism would “infringe people’s basic human rights.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, agreed last week to introduce a bill that will give tougher penalties for terrorism offences. The new anti-terrorism laws will cover areas such as financing of criminal activity, travelling to war zones and postings on social media.

But Amnesty International has said that the proposed definition of terrorism includes so many crimes that “it is rendered virtually meaningless.”

“The parliament should reject any proposals that would violate basic human rights,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, ahead of a Spanish parliamentary debate to be held today (February 10).

“It would seem that anything from certain forms of expression and association to hacking and travelling could be labelled and prosecuted as terrorism. The suggested definition is overly broad and some elements so vague that even a seasoned lawyer would have trouble knowing for certain what would constitute a terrorist act.

“What Spain needs to fight terrorism is the exact opposite: an exact and legally precise definition of what crimes constitute ‘terrorism’. And any new measures must be necessary and proportionate to the actual threat.”

Amnesty International said that if the proposed amendments are adopted then rights to freedom of expression, the presumption of innocence and the right to leave and return to one’s country could be threatened.

“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks and stepped-up counter-terrorism initiatives across Europe, governments must remain vigilant to ensure that their efforts to thwart future attacks do not come at the expense of human rights,” said Ms Hall. “Respecting human rights is essential to maintaining security and not an obstacle to keeping people safe.”

Among the amendments up for debate in Spain is a proposal that would outlaw travelling, or planning to travel, outside Spain to collaborate with militant groups or to train with them, even if no such training occurs or no so-called terrorist act is committed.

“Making a statement on social media that could be perceived as inciting others to commit violent attacks would now also be outlawed in Spain, even if the statement could not be directly linked to an act of violence,” said an Amnesty International press release.

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