Council of Europe urges Spain to guarantee freedom of speech

Authorities worried about 'gag law' for Catalan activists and raise concerns about police brutality

Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg
Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg / Blanca Blay

ACN | @agenciaacn | Brussels

May 10, 2023 02:19 PM

The Council of Europe (CoE) has called on the Spanish government to guarantee the freedom of speech for Catalan activists and politicians "in law and in practice" after the actions to "restore the democratic dialogue" in the territory, a report published on Wednesday states.

The international organization welcomed the reform of the penal code which saw the crime of sedition removed, but urged for these changes to be enforced in an effective way. The report also highlighted the worries about Spain's 'gag law' as it is "far" from complying with European standards.

The CoE is also concerned about police brutality in the country and the "inappropriate" use of arms when breaking up demonstrations, as well identifications of each officers being hidden especially during large protests.

Some aspects of the 'gag law' also have a "negative impact on freedom of speech," especially affecting "journalists and human rights defenders."

"Overall, the 'gag law' and these conditions have an intimidatory effect on society," the report states.

Housing and asylum policies

The Council of Europe also highlighted its concern regarding the lack of housing access in the country, issues accessing the health system, and migration policies.

Housing is one of the "main" problems in Spain, and the CoE calls on the government to improve housing access as "it should not be treated as a product for just a few, housing access is a fundamental human right," the report reads.

Regarding asylum policies, the international organization regrets that it seems like there is no "effective" way to cross the border in Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Africa.

"It seems like the only way to enter Spain and ask for asylum is either by swimming or jumping the wall, risking the lives of those who try to," the report reads.

The CoE also highlights the need to improve the public health system and criticizes the lack of investment in the primary care health system.