Spanish ministers and royalty attended the funeral of a Civil Guard killed in a May 14 car bombing blamed on ETA at a barracks in Legutiano, near the Basque city of Vitoria. Four officers were hurt. (BBC, May 15) Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Martin Scheinin, concluded an eight-day mission to Spain to review that country’s practices in combating terrorism. While the report issued at the end of the trip praised certain “best practices” in safeguarding the rights of suspects, it also raised concerns about abuses. (UN News Centre, May 14) An excerpt:
a) Article 571 of the Penal Code, defining the objective elements of terrorist crimes, is in the Special Rapporteur’s view based on a proper understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism and of the requirement of legality.
b) Other provisions of the relevant section of the Penal Code (articles 572-580), including the reference to “any other crime” in article 574, the notion of “collaboration” in article 576 and the amended provision of article 577 on street violence, however, carry the risk of a “slippery slope”, i.e. the gradual broadening of the notion of terrorism to acts that do not amount to, and do not have sufficient connection to, acts of serious violence against members of the general population.
The Special Rapporteur calls the attention of Spanish authorities to the latter finding, especially because of the existence of multiple factors that in the context of Spain highlight the risk of a “slippery slope”: the classification of crimes as terrorist ones triggers the application of incommunicado detention, replaces the jurisdiction of the territorial criminal court by the jurisdiction of the Audiencia Nacional, a specialized court with nationwide jurisdiction, and results in aggravated penalties and often also modifications in the rules related to the serving of sentences.
See our last post on the Basque struggle.