United Nations disapproves Spain’s incommunicado detention regime

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Successive Spanish Governments have ignored the repeated calls by the UN agencies for the defense of human rights.

After a decade of denounces by different international organizations for the defense of human rights, the current Government of Spain (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, PSOE) keeps enforcing the most severe detention regime in Europe.

In Spain, people held in incommunicado detention may be deprived of effective access to a lawyer as well as access to a doctor of their own choice, and are unable to inform their family or friends of their detention. Incommunicado detention can be imposed both before and after the detainee is brought before a judicial authority.

In addition to the UN, other human rights organizations have pointed out that in this situation the detainees are deprived of their most basic rights and guarantees and are in optimal conditions to be victims of torture and ill-treatment, given the relative impunity with which the police and law enforcement bodies can act under these circumstances.

Amnesty International has documented several cases in which the subsequent judicial procedures to determine the alleged existence of torture and ill-treatments and to determine the responsibilities were frustrated, leaving aggressors in total impunity and their victims in total helplessness.

After many years of insisting on the abolition, the Human Rights Committee has established that the practice of prolonged incommunicado detention may violate article 7 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and article 10, which guarantees the safeguarding of persons deprived of their liberty. The UN’s Human Rights Commission established in April 1997 that “the prolongation of the incommunicado detention… can in itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Despite the repeated calls by the UN and its agencies for the defense of human rights; the Convention against torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatments and Impunity; and European organizations of the same nature, such as the Council of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, this legislation has not only been maintained, but in fact has also been reinforced by successive Spanish Governments. In 2003 the Spanish Government increased the timeframe of incommunicado detention from five to 13 days for persons held on suspicion of involvement in terrorism-related activities, despite the recommendations given by specialized informers sent by the UN to Spain to examine the situation of human rights.


Amnesty International:

DOCUMENT – COMBATING TORTURE: A MANUAL FOR ACTION: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT40/001/2003/en/1e9e0f46-d760-11dd-b024-21932cd2170d/act400012003en.html

Spain: Civil Guards convicted of torture: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/002/2011/en

Moroccan man forcibly returned by Spain could face torture: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/spain-forcibly-returns-moroccan-man-risk-torture-2010-12-17

Spain: Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review: Eighth session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, May 2010: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/013/2009/en

Spain: Allegations of torture must be investigated: http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/spain-allegations-torture-must-be-investigated-20091103

Spain must investigate torture allegations: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/spain-must-investigate-torture-allegations-20091103

Spain: Adding insult to injury: Police impunity two years on: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/010/2009/en

Spain: Briefing to Committee against Torture, November 2009: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/011/2009/en

Spain: End Incommunicado detention in Spain (postcard): http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/006/2009/en

Spain: Incommunicado detention – out of sight, out of mind: http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/spain-incommunicado-detention-%E2%80%93-out-sight-out-mind-20090915

Spain: Out of the shadows – Time to end incommunicado detention: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/001/2009/en

Spain must end incommunicado detention:



Spain: Out of the shadows: End incommunicado detention in Spain: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/005/2009/en

Spain: Fear of forcible return/Fear of torture or other ill-treatment / Fear of unfair trial: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/EUR41/007/2009/en

United Nations Human Rights: Office of the high commissioner for Human Rights: DOCUMENTATION OF TORTURE TO INCOMMUNICADO DETAINEES IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY FROM 2000 TO 2008:


Student researchers:

Alberto Ardèvol Abreu (University of La Laguna)

Cruz Alberto Martínez Arcos (University of London)

Samuel Toledano (University of La Laguna)

Ciro Enrique Hernández Rodríguez (University of La Laguna)


Faculty evaluators:

José Manuel de Pablos Coello and José Manuel Pestano Rodríguez (University of La Laguna)