Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1990

Spain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional
monarch, Juan Carlos I. In free and open parliamentary
elections in October 1989, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was
elected to a third term.
The security forces are under the full control of the
Government. This was last demonstrated in July, when a police
officer was one of two suspects arrested for the November 1989
assassination of a Spanish parliamentary deputy associated
with Herri Batasuna, the political party considered the
political arm of the violent Basque separatist group ETA
(Basque Fatherland and Freedom) . Another policeman was among
four additional persons arrested as accomplices in the crime.
The Spanish economy is mixed, with primary reliance on private
initiative and market mechanisms. Since Spain joined the
European Economic Community in 1986, its economy has been the
fastest growing in Western Europe. Spain continues to
experience high unemployment, although the jobless rate has
steadily declined from 21.5 percent in 1985 to 15.3 percent as
of September 1990. High unemployment is due in part to the
entry of large numbers of new workers into the labor force and
disproportionately affects women and youth. Actual
unemployment is estimated to be considerably lower than the
Government's figures indicate, due to the existence of
extensive job opportunities in the underground economy.
The fundamental rights of speech, assembly, press, religion,
movement, and participation in the political process are
provided for in the Constitution of 1978 and are respected in
practice. The Government signed landmark agreements with the
country's Jewish and Protestant communities granting the
faiths the same constitutional status as that enjoyed by the
Roman Catholic Church.
In 1990 the principal source of human rights abuses continued
to be the protracted campaign of terrorism waged by ETA and
the resurgence of terrorist attacks by the First of October
Anti-Fascist Group [GRAPO] . The Government continued its
efforts to bring individual terrorists to justice while
adhering to democratic standards of due process and civil
rights. While suspected terrorists arrested and charged with
crimes frequently asserted that they were abused by police,
there were no confirmed cases. The Government and the public
gave increasing attention to the problems of discrimination
and violence against women and exploitation of the country's
increasing numbers of illegal immigrants.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were approximately 64 terrorist-related incidents from
January through September 1990 in which 18 people were killed
and 89 injured. Of those killed, four were Spanish national
police, four civil guards, two military personnel, three
government officials and five civilians. Of the 64 incidents,
35 were attributed to ETA, 12 to GRAPO, 6 to Terra Lliure, a
Catalan separatist group, and 1 to a Galician nationalist
The Government held intermittent talks with ETA in Algeria
during the past several years in an attempt to end the
violence. These talks broke down in 1989, and ETA terrorism
continues. Since 1987, there has been increasingly close and
effective cooperation between the Spanish and French
Governments in the fight against ETA. This was demonstrated
in 1990 by the willingness of the French Government to
extradite several suspected ETA terrorists to Spain, but so
far no high-ranking ETA leaders have been extradited from
France. Beginning in late 1989 and extending throughout 1990,
the terrorist group GRAPO renewed its campaign of bombings and
assassinations, particularly of military officers. Spanish
security authorities dealt a serious blow to GRAPO in late
October 1990 when they arrested 2 of the 6 most wanted members
of the terrorist organization.
Two ranking police officers remain in prison awaiting trial on
charges that they organized a secret antiterrorist death
squad, the Anti-Terrorist Liberation Group [GAL], which took
credit for the killings of alleged Spanish Basque terrorists
in southern France from 1983 to 1986. They were arrested in
May 1988. The delay in bringing the two policemen to trial is
not unusual for a criminal case [see Section I.e.]. The law
provides for imprisonment of up to 2 years before trial. In
July a judge extended this period of preventive detention for
another 2 years, citing the gravity of the possible criminal
sentences that could be imposed in the case.
      b. Disappearance
Kidnapings for ransom are occasionally carried out by ETA. In
February a Basque industrialist was released by his ETA
kidnapers after being held for 84 days. Press reports alleged
that the industrialist's family paid a ransom of $2.7 million
for his release. There are no claims that police or
government security forces carried out secret arrests or
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although detainees charged with terrorism routinely assert
that they are abused during detention, and similar charges are
sometimes made by persons arrested for criminal offenses,
there were no documented instances of police abuse during
1990. Particularly through its ombudsman-like Office of the
Defender of the People, the Government actively investigates
police officers charged with such abuses and prosecutes when
the evidence warrants. An improved police attitude with
respect to human rights over the past several years may be
attributed to this demonstrated willingness of the Government
to punish improper police behavior, as well as to enhanced
police training and discipline, publicity in the press, and
concern by the police unions themselves with denunciations of
police misconduct.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Under the Constitution, a person is free from arbitrary arrest
and detention, and normally a suspect may not be held more
than 72 hours without a hearing. The penal code, as reformed
in 1988, permits a suspected terrorist to be held an
additional 2 days without a hearing. Exile is not practiced.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the
right to a fair public trial. This right is observed in
practice. Defendants have the right to be represented by an
attorney, at state expense for the indigent. The right to be
released on bail is guaranteed, unless the court has reason to
believe a suspect may flee or constitute a serious threat to
public safety. The law provides for an expeditious judicial
hearing following arrest. Suspects may not be imprisoned for
more than 2 years before being brought to trial, unless a
further delay is authorized by a judge. The period of
preventive detention may be extended up to 6 years, at the
judge's discretion. In practice, the delay generally is less
than 1 year. In cases of petty crime, suspects released on
bail may face a wait of as long as 5 years before their trial
comes up. Following conviction, defendants may appeal to the
next highest court. The European Court of Human Rights is the
final arbiter in cases concerning human rights.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution protects the privacy of the home and
correspondence. Under the Criminal Code, government
authorities must obtain court approval before searching
private property, wiretapping, or interfering with private
correspondence. The present antiterrorist law gives
discretionary authority to the Minister of Interior to act
prior to obtaining court approval "in cases of emergency."
There have been no complaints that the Minister has abused
this authority.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech and the press are provided for in the
Constitution, and the Government scrupulously observes these
provisions. Opposition viewpoints, both from political
parties and other organizations, are freely aired and widely
reflected in the media. In 1990 three new private commercial
television stations went on the air. Earlier, the only
television stations were government owned. Six new dailies
also have been established, including a major newspaper in
The Spanish Parliament has under consideration a change in the
laws of calumny and offense to honor, which are generally
applied against media organizations or individual journalists.
The current law, which many believe to be antiquated or
unnecessary, allows for fines and jail sentences. The
proposed law would limit penalties to fines. Few cases
actually go through the Spanish judiciary; most disputes are
settled out of court.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
As provided in the Constitution, all groups have the right of
free assembly and association for political or other purposes.
This right is fully respected and freely practiced. A permit
is required of any group wanting to hold a public
demonstration; permits are routinely granted.
      c. Freedom of Religion
There is no state religion in Spain. Roman Catholicism is the
predominant religion, but other religions are represented and
function with full freedom. Adherence to a particular faith
neither enhances nor diminishes a person's status.
In February the Government concluded landmark accords with
federations of Spanish Jews and Protestants. The accords for
the first time established religious pluralism within the
country's constitutional framework. They ended a state of
official legal discrimination against the two religions, even
though in practice legal discrimination ended in the 1960 's.
The accords place Protestants and Jews on an ecfual legal
footing with Catholics except in the matter of financial
support from the Government, which both faiths have
renounced. The accords spell out a number of concrete rights
to be accorded to members of the two faiths. For example,
Protestant and Jewish students now have the right to receive
religious instruction in public schools, as Catholics do.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Spanish citizens have complete freedom to travel within and
outside the country. The Government restricts neither
emigration nor repatriation. The law on aliens permits
detention of a person for up to 40 days prior to expulsion but
specifies that the detention may not take place in a prisonlike
setting. Spain has a liberal refugee law. Generally, the
Government grants refugee status on the recommendation of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Spain is a multiparty democracy with open elections in which
all citizens 18 years of age and over have the right to vote.
Spaniards elect representatives to a two-chamber federal
parliament as well as to provincial and local bodies. At all
levels of government, elections must be held every 4 years.
Opposition parties and groups take an active part in the
political process. Candidates are drawn from four major
national parties, two major regional parties, and a number of
minor parties.
Spanish politics contain an important regional element which
is particularly strong in Catalonia and the Basque country.
These two "autonomous communities" (similar to U.S. states)
support several regional parties that reflect the desires of
many Basques and Catalans to give political expression to
their own linguistic and cultural identities. These parties
advocate a variety of views and provide a legitimate
democratic alternative to separatist groups that advocate
achieving independence through terrorist violence.
Participation of women in the political process continues to
increase. In 1988 the ruling Spanish Socialist Worker's Party
(PSOE) instituted a quota system requiring 25 percent of its
candidates to be women. The number of sucessful women
candidates increased substantially in Spain's national
elections in October 1989. However, under Spain's electoral
system, the percentage of votes won determines the number of
candidates elected from the party list; hence a candidate's
place on the list is crucial in determining election. Since
many women candidates are placed in the lower half of the
list, the number elected never reaches 25 percent. (Some 17
percent of PSOE candidates are women).
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Human Rights Association of Spain in Madrid is the largest
and most respected national human rights organization. The
Association has a well-earned reputation for independence and
objectivity. The Human Rights Institute of Catalonia in
Barcelona offers seminars on resolving human rights issues
through the country's legal system. The Foreign Ministry,
through an Office of Human Rights Affairs, takes an active
interest in human rights issues internationally.
The Government cooperates readily with international
organizations investigating allegations of human rights abuses
(such as the European Commission for the Prevention of
Torture), with international nongovernmental human rights
groups, such as Amnesty International and the International
Committee of the Red Cross, as well as with independent
national groups.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens,
and an independent ombudsman actively investigates complaints
of human rights abuses by the authorities.
During the past 15 years of democracy, Spanish women have
achieved a greater degree of equality under the law, gained
increased access to the educational system, and entered the
work force in larger numbers. Nonetheless, traditional
attitudes continue to result in de facto discrimination.
There is considerable regional variation in the extent of such
discrimination. Since assuming power in 1982, the PSOE has
undertaken a number of significant initiatives for women,
including the establishment of the Women's Institute in 1983,
which actively attempts to promote social, political, and
economic equality. In 1988 Parliament adopted a Plan for
Equality of Opportunities for Women which targets several
areas of concern. Although one-third more women (mainly those
younger than 29 years old) work outside the home than 10 years
ago, the frequency of such employment in Spain still ranks
among the lowest in Europe. Women have a relatively low, but
increasing, rate of affiliation with the major labor unions.
The Government has targeted sexual abuse, violence, and
harassment of women in the workplace as areas of great
concern. The majority of cases are probably not reported,
owing in part to unsympathetic attitudes on the part of some
police and judicial personnel. However, the number of
reported cases has continued to grow in recent years, possibly
indicating an increased awareness among Spanish women of their
right to seek legal redress. In 1989 Parliament passed a law
prohibiting verbal and physical harassment in the workplace.
Several levels of government provide a number of institutional
remedies, such as shelters for battered women. The Government
also is attempting through educational programs to change
public attitudes that contribute to violence against women.
The Women's Institute has charged that some judges are
reluctant to get involved in what they feel should remain a
domestic problem. Similarly, in smaller towns some police
officers have been reluctant to accept complaints from
battered women. To deal with this problem, the Ministry of
the Interior initiated a program in 1986 that created special
sections within police departments to deal with violence
against women, staffed by specially trained women officers.
Gypsies are a minority group representing 3 percent of the
Spanish population. Despite their constitutional rights, they
continue to suffer de facto discrimination in housing,
schools, and jobs. Legal mechanisms exist by which Gypsies
can seek redress, and the Government has stated its commitment
to securing equal rights and treatment for Gypsies. A
representative of the Gypsy community serves as special
advisor to the Minister of Interior.
In 1990 Spain's human rights groups and media gave increasing
attention to the question of human rights for the country's
growing numbers of illegal immigrants. A large portion of the
illegal immigrants come from north and sub-Saharan Africa and
are vulnerable to racial discrimination or economic
exploitation by employers.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
All workers, except those in the military services, judges,
magistrates, and prosecutors, are entitled to form or join
unions of their own choosing without previous authorization.
The only requisites for organizing a union are the formation
of a group of more than two workers and registration with the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which is routinely
granted. Spain has over 200 registered trade unions. The
only union presently in existence that is not legally
registered is the Unified Trade Union of the Guardia Civil
(SUGG), which the Constitutional Court ruled in 1986 could not
be registered since it purports to represent military
personnel barred from unionization by the Constitution.
Under the Constitution, trade unions are free to choose their
own representatives, determine their own policies, represent
their members' interests, and strike. They are not restricted
or harassed by the Government. A strike in nonessential
services is legal when it fulfills the requirement of 5 days'
prior notice. Strikes affecting essential services require 10
days' prior notice and must respect legal minimum service
requirements, which are negotiated between the Government and
the unions. Strikes occur frequently in Spain, although most
are of short duration. In a key court case in June, a
magistrate declared a strike illegal for the first time since
current legislation was enacted, and imposed a $500,000 fine.
He ruled that the union was seeking a further wage increase
for its members after one had already been granted by the
company to all workers. This case has been appealed to the
Supreme Court.
Spanish unions are free to form or join federations,
confederations, and international bodies. Two major unions,
the General Workers Union and the Basque Solidarity Union
(ELA/STV) are members of the International Confederation of
Free Trade Unions and the European Trade Union Confederation.
ELA/STV and the Workers' Trade Union Confederation (USO) are
also members of the World Confederation of Labor.
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively was established
by statute in 1980. Trade union and collective bargaining
rights were extended to all workers in the public sector,
except the military services, in 1986. Public sector
collective bargaining in 1990 was broadened to include
salaries and employment levels. Collective bargaining is
widespread in both the private and public sectors. Sixty
percent of the working population is covered by private sector
collective bargaining agreements, although only a minority are
actually union members. The Government has engaged the two
major trade unions in a social dialogue since December 1989,
which led to several agreements in early 1990 affecting public
service salaries, pensions, control of work contracts, and the
minimum wage. Labor regulations and practices in free trade
zones and export processing zones are the same as in the rest
of the country. Union membership in these zones is reportedly
higher than the average throughout the economy.
The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union
members and organizers. Discrimination cases have priority in
the labor courts. One practice which the unions consider
discriminatory is the use by employers of temporary employment
contracts. Around 30 percent of the work force is employed
under this type of contract. The unions believe that
employees engaging in union organizing under this type of
contract are frequently not allowed to renew their contracts.
In 1990 draft legislation was introduced in Parliament to
provide trade union control over work contracts to prevent
abuse of contract and termination actions.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory labor
Forced or compulsory labor is outlawed in Spain and is not
practiced. Legislation is effectively enforced.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The legal minimum age for employment as established by statute
is 16 years. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is
primarily responsible for enforcement. The minimum age is
effectively enforced in major industries and in the service
sector. It is more difficult to control on small farms and in
family-owned businesses. Legislation prohibiting child labor
is effectively enforced in the special economic zones. The
employment of persons under 18 years of age at night, for
overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous by the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the unions is also
legally prohibited.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Workers in general have substantial, well-defined rights. A
40-hour workweek is established by law. Spanish workers enjoy
12 paid holidays a year and a month's paid vacation. All
workers receive 12 monthly paychecks a year plus 2 bonus
checks equivalent to an additional 2 months' base salary. The
legal minimum wage for workers over age 18 is 14 "monthly"
paychecks amounting to $6,751 a year, which is considered
sufficient for a decent standard of living. Minimum wages for
those aged 16 and 17 are less. The minimum wage rate is
rcvT'-ed every year in accordance with the consumer price index.
Government mechanisms exist for enforcing working conditions
and occupational health and safety conditions, but
bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and inefficient.
Safety and health legislation is being revised to conform to
European Community directives.
The National Institute of Safety and Health within the
Ministry of Labor has technical responsibility for developing
safety standards, but the Inspectorate of Labor has
responsibility for enforcing the legislation through judicial
action when infractions are found. Workers have legal
protection for filing complaints about hazardous conditions.
Work-related accidents increased from 471,449 in 1986 to
651,677 in 1989. The Government is preparing new legislation
aimed at reducing accidents in the workplace.