Ongoing and Unresolved: Violations of Human Rights in Spain

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MADRID — There are basic needs that every human being should have access to, such as water, food, transportation and housing. However, we still must meet other needs, such as the right of expression and holding our own values. Although these may seem to be rights one is born with, that is not always the case. The government Gag Law and countless evictions, leaving many people homeless, challenge human rights in Spain.

The Gag Law, also known as the Citizen Safety Law, limits the right to protest through fines. It punishes public protests in front of Parliament, other government buildings, transportation hubs, nuclear power plants or similar facilities. The fine for these protests can range from 30,000 to 600,000 euros.

It also fines photojournalists or citizens taking pictures of law enforcement authorities or police without their authorization. The fine for this offense is 30,000 euros and makes it harder for witnesses to document police brutality and abuse. In March 2016, Axier Lopez became the first journalist charged under Article 36.23 of the Gag Law.

After posting a photograph of police officers to his twitter account, Lopez received a fine of 601 euros. After a year of refusing to pay the fine, the charges finally dropped.

The Gag Law is not the only violation of human rights in Spain; the countless evictions leaving many families homeless have been another example of it.

Due to the economic crisis in 2008, evictions in Spain have sky rocketed, leaving many without the security of a home. Although the crisis occurred in 2008, the impact of it has been a lasting one. In 2014, at least 95 families faced eviction every day in Spain.

The result of these evictions was not only homelessness but suicide too; many facing impending evictions committed suicide to avoid the pain and aftermath of it. The number of suicides linked to economic problems increased a great amount from December 2011 to April of 2012.

There have been 350,000 evictions over a five-year time span. The harsh mortgage laws in Spain only add to the initial stress families feel of eviction. The mortgage laws require people to continue to pay off their mortgages with interest and penalty charges even if evicted and their home has been repossessed. Since mortgage defaulters are disqualified from filing for bankruptcy, many are saddled with debts they can never escape.

Many have seen how inhumane the eviction crisis is. Amnesty International has even launched a campaign to tackle the crisis, calling for the suspension of home evictions. Also, the organization will create a body to oversee negotiations between banks and households to make sure that they have explored “all feasible alternatives” to an eviction.

The eviction crisis and Gag Law have had an incredible impact on human rights in Spain. It has caused backlash and damage to the lives of many. Although these are only two violations of human rights in Spain, they have been ongoing and remain unresolved today.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

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