Amnesty International slams Spain on protests

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Amnesty International slams Spain on protests
An anti-riot policeman chases a demonstrator during clashes at the end of the "the Marches for Dignity 22-M" protest against austerity in Madrid on March 22nd. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Amnesty International on Thursday slammed Spanish authorities for what the human rights group believes is a concerted effort to discourage people from taking part in peaceful protests.


"Two people pushed me against a wall and threw me to the ground. They dragged me aside and identified themselves as police.

"They told me I had been arrested because I had tried to attack an official from the health ministry."

This is how the Amnesty International report into the threat to Spain's protesters begins.

The testimony is from a 35-year-old nursing assistant from Madrid, identified in the report as Jorge.

Fortunately for him, the incident in question was being filmed by national broadcaster TVE .That footage showed police had trumped up the charges against Jorge and the case was thrown out in court.

"If it hadn't been for the images, I would have serious problems...the police know that they can falsely accuse you and lock you up for a whole day with nobody being responsible," he explained.

Jorge's case is just one of 30 used to illustrate what Amnesty International decries as a growing government crackdown on peaceful protests in Spain.

Based on interviews with "victims" of police violence, lawyers and journalists, it is damning of the policies of law enforcement.

"We have found clear indications that the sanctions imposed on people for taking part in protests is discouraging people from participating in public protests," the authors of the 93-page report say.

Some protesters have been fined on numerous occasions "to the point where they have accumulated debts", Amnesty argues.

The group also highlights "violations of human rights committed by members of the security forces" in Spain.

Among these is the case of Ester Quintana who was blinded in her left eye at a protest in Barcelona during a general strike in 2012 after she says she was struck by a rubber ball fired by police.

In their report Amnesty International also take aim at Spain's draft Citizen Security Law which imposes sanctions including fines of up to €30,000 ($41,000) for protesting outside the country's parliament without permission.

The new Amnesty International report comes just day after Spain's Spain's Director General of Police announced the head of the anti-riot squad involved a March demonstration in Madrid which turned violent would be removed from his post.

Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain participated in the March 22nd "march for dignity" against the dire state of the economy.

But a peaceful day turned violent after demonstrators dispersed with dozens of youths smashing bank windows and setting fire to rubbish bins. 

Police responded by firing rubber bullets and charging to disperse protesters.

One 23-year-old protester had his left testicle surgically removed after being shot by riot police with a rubber bullet.



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