Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
Spain is a democracy with a constitutional monarch. The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. Jose Maria Aznar of the Popular Party was elected President in 1996. The Government respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary in practice.
Spain has three levels of security forces. The National Police are responsible for nationwide investigations, security in urban areas, traffic control, and hostage rescue. The Civil Guard polices rural areas and controls borders and highways. Autonomous police forces have taken over many of the duties of the Civil Guard in Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque Country. The security forces are under the effective control of the Government. The security forces also maintain anticorruption units. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.
The economy is market based, with primary reliance on private initiative, although a number of public sector enterprises remain in key areas. The economy grew at a 3.9 percent annual rate in the second quarter, and overall growth for the year was expected to be around 3.8 percent. The unemployment rate dropped from 21 percent in 1997 to just under 19 percent at the end of the second quarter.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas, including cases of police brutality and lengthy pretrial detention. The Government investigates allegations of human rights abuses by the security forces and punishes those found guilty of such abuses, although investigations are often lengthy and punishments can be light. Societal violence against women, instances of trafficking in women and forced prostitution, discrimination against women, Muslims, and Roma, and incidents of racism and rightwing youth violence were also problems.
Throughout the year there were significant judicial proceedings relating to the involvement of the former Gonzalez Administration in the Antiterrorist Liberation Groups (GAL), which killed 27 persons between 1983 and 1987, including 10 persons with no connection to the Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) terrorist group, the ostensible target of the GAL. In July former Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo and former Secretary of State for Security Raphael Vera were convicted of the December 1983 abduction of French citizen Segundo Marey, the first action claimed by the GAL. They were sentenced to 10 years‚ imprisonment each, but were released in December pending appeal. In October, in response to a Spanish warrant, the United Kingdom arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on charges of genocide, terrorism, and torture.
The principal source of abuses continued to be the protracted campaign of terrorism waged by ETA, which committed killings and other abuses before it declared a unilateral cease-fire in September.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings by government forces.
However, there was one questionable death in custody during the year, and an investigation was opened into a number of prison inmate deaths under suspicious circumstances in 1997 and 1996 (see Section 1.c.).
In July national policemen Manuel and Andres Pavon were acquitted of homicide charges stemming from the June 1997 shooting of a 16-year-old boy. The jury determined that an "imminent danger" existed and that therefore the officers acted in self-defense. There were no developments in the case of a Moroccan boy who allegedly was shot in the back by a Civil Guard officer in March 1997.
In April national police officer Antonio Barrionuevo was found guilty of the 1996 killing of Manuel Abreu Silva, a Portuguese citizen. Barrionuevo was sentenced to 10 years‚ imprisonment, but the sentence was suspended pending his appeal. Abreu had reproached an inebriated Barrionuevo for pointing his firearm at two passersby who criticized him for urinating in the street, and confiscated his weapon. After he returned it to Barrionuevo, the policeman fired a shot, mortally wounding Abreu in the back of the head.
Courts continue to investigate the "dirty war" against terrorism, during which death squads known as the Antiterrorist Liberation Groups, or GAL, allegedly carried out bombings, extrajudicial killings, and kidnapings during the 1980's. The first GAL case concluded in July with the conviction by the Supreme Court of all 12 defendants in the 1983 abduction of French citizen Segundo Marey. Former Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo, former Secretary of State for Security Rafael Vera, and former civil governor of Vizcaya province (one of three provinces in the Basque Country) Julian Sancristobal were sentenced to 10 years‚ imprisonment each for illegal detention and misappropriation of public funds. They were not convicted of membership in an armed band as the prosecution requested. Former high-ranking officials given lesser sentences included a former secretary general of the Socialist Party (PSE-EE) in Vizcaya, a former chief of National Intelligence Agency (CESID) squad in Bilbao, and the former police chief of Bilbao. The Government commuted Barrionuevo‚s and Vera‚s sentences in December. Shortly before Christmas, Barrionuevo and Vera were accorded conditional release, a form of detention under which the prisoner only has to report to the prison Monday through Thursday and is free to go home on the weekends. Shortly after Christmas, the Supreme Court suspended the sentences pending Barrionuevo‚s and Vera‚s appeals. They are out of prison but still are banned from access to any government job for 5 years. At year‚s end, none of those convicted in the Segundo Marey case was in jail. Many of the pending GAL cases, unlike the Segundo Marey case, involve alleged killings by the GAL.
Virtually no progress was made in resolving the mid-1980's cases of alleged killings by the security forces of Roman Onaederra, Mikel Zabaltza, Robert Caplanne, and a tramp and two drug addicts.
A Morrocan immigrant was killed in November by unknown persons, presumably for racist reasons (see Section 5).
ETA continued to commit abuses, including deliberate and arbitrary killings. At the time it declared a unilateral cease-fire in September, ETA had killed six persons since the beginning of the year. ETA's primary targets continued to be Popular Party (PP) town councilmen. According to the Ministry of Interior, ETA has killed 807 persons since 1960.
On January 9, an ETA car bomb killed Jose Ignacio Iruretagoyuena, a PP councilman in Zarauz, Guipuzcoa. On January 30, two ETA gunmen shot and killed at close range Alberto Jimenez Becerril, Seville city councilman and second deputy mayor (PP) and his wife, Ascencion Garcia Ortiz, as they were returning home after dining at a nearby restaurant. On May 6, ETA killed Tomas Caballero, a member of the Pamplona City Council and the Union of the Navarrese People political party, which has close ties to the PP. The killing was thought to be motivated by his harsh comments accusing Herri Batsuna, ETA's political wing, of murder and inciting murder in the wake of Iruretagoyuena's killing. On May 8, in Vitoria, the Basque regional capital, ETA shot and killed Alfonso Parada Ulloa, a retired Civil Guard sub-lieutenant. His death provoked a demonstration of an estimated 35,000 persons, the largest demonstration in memory in the Basque administrative capital. On June 25, ETA killed Manuel Zamarreno, a Renteria (Guipuzcoa) councilman (PP), with a bomb placed on a motorcycle parked in front of his home. ETA was also responsible for nonlethal violence that caused extensive property damage (see Section 1.c.).
The Government intensified efforts to dismantle ETA and its related organizations and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice. Foreign policy efforts centered on continuing coordination with French authorities and strengthening extradition agreements with Latin American countries, particularly Mexico.
Internal efforts to combat ETA focused on intense police activity and the closure of the pro-ETA newspaper Egin in July pending a judicial investigation into alleged subordination of the newspaper's editorial line and hiring practices to ETA's command and the use of coded classified ads to coordinate ETA strategy. Judge Baltazar Garzon of the National High Court noted a pattern of ETA victims having been demonized by Egin prior to their killings. He identified 11 such cases. Egin‚s editor, Xavier Salutregi, subsequently was charged with violation of the ban on collaboration with an armed band: the investigation continued at year‚s end. Following police raids in February and March, Interior Minister Mayor Oreja expressed his confidence that both the Araba and the Vizcaya ETA commands had been completely dismantled. The Ministry of the Interior, the PP leadership, and the Ertzainza (Basque police) coordinated the implementation of a plan to improve police protection of PP officials in the Basque region.
In April suspected ETA member Fernando Elejalde Tapia was sentenced by the National High Court to 37 years' imprisonment for the 1997 murder of Francisco Javier Gomez Elosegui, a prison official in San Sebastian.
In May ETA member Valentin Lasarte was sentenced to 82 years' imprisonment for his participation in the 1996 murder of Fernando Mugica Herzog, an attorney and the brother of former Justice Minister Enrique Mugica. However, the sentence does not prolong Lasarte's incarceration since his previous convictions already condemned him to more than 25 years‚ imprisonment, the maximum permitted by law.
In June two former ETA leaders, Ignacio Arakama Mendia and Jesus Arkautz Arana, were sentenced for their participation in killings carried out in the 1980's. Extradited by the Dominican Republic in the summer of 1997, Arakama was sentenced to 26 years and 8 months‚ imprisonment for the 1985 murder of Ricardo Tejero Magro, then director of the Central Bank. Arkautz was found guilty of supplying the grenades used in an attack on the Civil Guard Barracks in Mungia, Basque Autonomous Region, which caused the deaths of five persons.
On September 16, ETA announced an indefinite cease-fire and issued a lengthy statement of political objectives. Among these was an independent Basque state. The Government announced in November that it would seek direct negotiations with ETA to make the cease-fire permanent. These negotiations had not yet begun by year‚s end. The Government's agenda for these talks includes relief for ETA prisoners and exiles but not political issues such as self-determination and sovereignty.
The pro-ETA Herri Batasuna/Euskal Herritarrok (HB/EH) Party stated on November 14 that ETA would not enter into talks until the Government issued a Spanish version of the "Downing Street Declaration" in which it recognized that the future of the Basque country should be decided solely by Basques. The Government responded that it would not issue such a statement. Since ETA's cease-fire declaration, the Basques held regional elections, and the parties that represent Basque nationalism (the Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV, Euskal Alkartasuna, or EA, and HB/EH) retained their majority. Among those gaining seats were the Popular Party, which went from 11 seats to 16, making it the second largest party in the legislature, and HB/EH, which went from 11 seats to 14.
Several organizations are dedicated to the needs and concerns of victims of terrorism, among them the Association of Terrorism Victims (AVT). This organization was founded in 1981 and currently serves 1,300 families by providing legal and psychological counseling, publishing a monthly magazine, and carrying out various other activities. Government funding is limited to $39,000 (Ptas 6 million) provided annually by the Ministry of Defense. In 1997 the Association donated $640,000 (Ptas 97 million) to aid victims of terrorism and their families.
Following intense AVT advocacy for the victims of ETA's 1987 attack on a Barcelona shopping center, which resulted in 21 deaths, 12 victims were awarded a total of $700,000 (Ptas 106 million). Another 29 claimants awaited a decision on whether their claims were filed after the deadline and are therefore inadmissible. The damages were awarded in accordance with the Supreme Court's 1997 ruling which found the police negligent for not evacuating shoppers despite a warning from ETA an hour before the explosion.
Despite the Attorney General's publicly expressed doubts regarding Spanish courts' jurisdiction in cases involving the disappearance of 600 Spaniards under Chilean and Argentinian dicatorships in the 1970's and 1980's, the investigation continues. Following the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the United Kingdom in October in response to a Spanish warrant, the Spanish National High Court requested General Pinochet's extradition to answer charges that he violated international covenants on genocide, terrorism, and torture. Initially, the British High Court ruled that General Pinochet enjoyed sovereign immunity from prosecution. However, on appeal the British Law Lords overturned the ruling on Pinochet's immunity in a 3 to 2 decision in November. Extradition proceedings began in December. However, the Law Lords set aside their decision in December when Pinochet's lawyers contended that one of the judges who ruled against Pinochet failed to disclose his substantial links to Amnesty International, which was represented in the case. A rehearing of the appeal was to begin in January 1999.
Twelve former government officials, including the former Interior Minister, were convicted in July of the 1983 kidnaping of French citizen Segundo Marey, mistaken for a terrorist (see Section 1.a.).
There were no reports of ETA kidnapings during the year.
Four ETA members were convicted in June of the kidnaping of Jose Antonio Ortega Lara, a prison official from Burgos. Ortega was abducted on January 17, 1996, and spent a total of 532 days in captivity, making him the longest held ETA hostage. His kidnaping was designed to pressure the Government into rescinding its policy of dispersing ETA prisoners throughout the country.
Since 1970 ETA has kidnaped 76 persons. It is estimated that ETA obtained more than $33 million from the kidnapings. Since 1982 only five hostages were set free due to successful police intervention, and nine were killed in the process of negotiation.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such acts; however, suspects charged with terrorism routinely assert that they have been abused during detention, and other detainees sometimes make similar charges. The Government investigates these allegations and also permits outside parties to investigate them.
Amnesty International (AI) expressed concerns during the year about continuing reports of illegal detention, torture, and mistreatment by law enforcement officers. AI particularly stressed its longstanding concern at the way in which detainees may be detained incommunicado for up to 5 days, with accompanying restrictions on the right of access to lawyers of their choice, a system which, in AI‚s view as well as that of organizations such as the U.N. Human Rights Committee, and the U.N. Committee Against Torture, facilitates mistreatment and torture.
Amnesty International expressed concern during the year over the growing tendency toward assaults on persons of non-European ethnic origin by different police forces, including the local or municipal police. AI made a formal inquiry to the national and local authorities on the initiatives that were being undertaken, or planned, to incorporate human rights into the training programs of magistrates, police, and other law enforcement officers (also see Section 5).
Press reports on November 24 stated that two members of the local police in Melilla were charged with raping a Moroccan girl. One of the police officers was detained in jail and the other posted bail. The press reports that the officer who remained in prison has a well-established record of civilian abuse, but that this is the first time that he actually has served any time in jail.
In July a Barcelona court sentenced national policeman Luis Rubio Mazon to 9 years' imprisonment and payment of $13,000 in damages for the 1997 rape of a detainee in his custody. The court also established the liability of the State.
There was no apparent progress in the complaint filed against police officers for allegedly beating motorist Ivan Gonzalez in September 1997 or in the case of four policemen charged with the rape of a Brazilian tourist in March 1996. Nor did police make any arrests in connection with the beating of a protected GAL witness in November 1996.
In June 10 Civil Guards were convicted of torturing 2 detainees in the Colmenar Viejo barracks in 1994, given sentences ranging from 2 to 8 months, and banned from public sector employment for a 6-year period. Since sentences of a year or less normally are not served, none of the officers was incarcerated. The officers were found guilty of threatening, punching, and kicking two of the plaintiffs and subjecting them to humiliating unclothed body searches. The vagueness of a third plaintiff's testimony prevented the jury from determining the veracity of his accusations. The prosecutor announced his intention to seek stiffer sentences on appeal to the Supreme Court.
The press reported that on November 23, six members of the Civil Guard were brought to trial for allegedly having tortured in 1992 three persons suspected of being members of ETA. The defense in this case argued that the wounds the defendants exhibited actually were inflicted simply because they resisted arrest and not for any other reasons.
Amnesty International received reports that a sergeant of the Civil Guard convicted in 1997 for the illegal detention and torture of ETA member Kepa Urra 6 years earlier and sentenced to 4 years in prison and a 6-year ban on serving again in the police force was selected for a promotional course, despite one of the conditions for acceptance being that a candidate should not have been convicted of a deliberate criminal act. Civil Guard officials argued that because the conviction was not yet definitive, pending appeal to the Supreme Court, a presumption of innocence should apply until that time. In a parliamentary answer in March, the Government reportedly recognized the "gravity and reprehensibility" of the crime committed and stated that, if the conviction were confirmed, appropriate action still could be taken against the sergeant. However, AI is concerned that such haste to reward an officer immediately after conviction (without awaiting the outcome of the appeal) may reflect the authorities' lack of seriousness in seeking justice in Kepa Urra's torture case.
In February three national policemen were convicted of torturing two detainees at Bilbao police headquarters in 1984. The jury determined that following their arrest for placing an explosive device in a bank, the two men were subjected throughout the interrogation to repeated blows to the back, neck, testicles, legs, and ears, threats of castration, and the application of electrodes.
Amnesty International raised with national and local authorities the issue of whether lengthy delays in torture-related trials and the effective impunity of law enforcement officers is being addressed as a component of the professional training of magistrates, police, and other law enforcement officers. The Amnesty International delegation was assured that national and local government ministers and representatives believe human rights are an essential component of professional training and as such would seek to address such issues.
The Police and the press continue to report significant ETA youth criminal activity, including the use of Molotov cocktails to set fire to homes, businesses, cars, and political party offices in a continuing campaign of intimidation. During the year, damage by Jarrai, the youth wing of ETA, was expected to amount to millions of dollars. In the year's most dramatic incident, a July scuffle between San Sebastian police and hooded vandals resulted in over 20 persons being injured, including a security guard who suffered first and second degree burns. In August 50 hooded vandals firebombed the apartment building in which the family of a Getxo (Vizcaya province) PP town counsellor resided, leaving 8 families homeless. Police were only able to find and arrest one of the arsonists.
A 1998 report by the Attorney General states that the number of individuals who suffered personal property damage as a result of attacks by ETA sympathizers decreased from a total of 125 in 1997 to 69 as of August 1998. Among the civilian population, 47 persons were injured in these attacks during the year.
Prison conditions generally meet minimum international standards. In May the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture released a report on its April 1997 inspection of facilities in which illegal aliens are detained. The delegation expressed its concern over instances of severe overcrowding, inadequate supervisory control over low-level officials accused of abusing prisoners, inadequate recordkeeping and recourse to appeal for inmates detained in solitary confinement, and insufficient food for some detainees. Of particular concern to the Committee was the use of excessive force by officials during expulsion procedures, including the frequent practice of binding and gagging deportees with adhesive tape.
In response to the Committee's report, the Government took steps to reduce overcrowding and improve the food supply in the cited facilities. However, the Government's official response did not address the Committee's concerns regarding the specific practice of binding and gagging deportees with adhesive tape or announce any modifications in its solitary confinement policy or procedures, which the Ministry of the Interior deemed sufficiently transparent. The Government maintains that the mandatory notification of a supervisory judge of a detainee's solitary confinement prevents the arbitrary imposition of this security measure. The report denies that a detainee's opportunity to appeal is limited.
The Public Defender initiated 10 new investigations into allegations of mistreatment and torture in prisons in 1997. In his 1998 report, he noted the rise of drug addiction and AIDS in the prison population and the need for implementing better rehabilitation programs. He also expressed concern over overcrowding.
On December 4, the press reported that the opposition requested the parliamentary appearance of Minister of the Interior, Jaime Mayor Oreja, to explain the death in detention of a 24-year-old Nigerian woman, Julienne Danielle, who was 7 months‚ pregnant and killed herself in a dungeon-like prison cell of the Civil Guard in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The woman apparently had been detained for having illegally crossed the border into Spanish territory and was being held until her legal situation was investigated. When the woman was picked up by the Civil Guard, she had lacerations on her feet and apparently was treated for her wounds in a hospital that later released her to be taken to the camping grounds for immigrants located in the area where she was found. However, due to bad weather the Civil Guard argues that it was not able to take the woman there and instead had to commit her to the Civil Guard prison quarters. The woman was found dead in her cell the next day. She apparently hung herself.
In March the General Council of Judicial Power announced the opening of an investigation into 31 cases of alleged abuse and negligence by prison officials in 1996 and 1997. The investigating committee promised to scrutinize in particular eight inmate deaths ostensibly caused by mismanagement and negligence, including the failure by prison officials to give prompt medical attention to a prisoner who suffered from chronic heart problems and the suicide of an inmate whose treatment for drug addiction was interrupted by his transfer to a prison lacking drug counseling facilities. Another death under investigation is that of a San Sebastian inmate whose official cause of death is listed as a barbiturate overdose despite the presence of lesions on the back, neck, and thighs of his body and the refusal of the doctors who conducted the autopsy to certify a drug overdose as the cause of death.
Basque activists continued to demand that all imprisoned ETA members be held in prisons in the Basque region or the adjacent autonomous region, Navarre. A legal brief criticizing the dispersion of ETA prisoners, presented by Basque nationalist party member and president of the Basque Parliament's Human Rights Commission Jose Antonio Rubalcaba, was declared inadmissible by the European Commission of Human Rights. Basque nationalists claimed that political pressures motivated the court‚s decision. Following ETA‚s declaration of a cease-fire in September, the Government announced in December that it would move 21 ETA prisoners to prisons in or near the Basque Country.
The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors, including the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the authorities respect these provisions in practice.
A suspect may not be held more than 72 hours without a hearing except in cases involving terrorism. The Penal Code permits holding a suspected terrorist an additional 2 days without a hearing and the possibility of incommunicado detention for such persons, provided that a judge authorizes such action.
The law on aliens permits detention of a person for up to 40 days prior to deportation but specifies that it must not take place in a prison-like setting.
The Constitution prohibits exile, and the Government respects this provision in practice.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary is independent in practice.
The judicial structure consists of territorial, provincial, regional, and municipal courts with the Supreme Court at its apex. The Constitutional Court has the authority to return a case to the court in which it was adjudicated if it can be determined that constitutional rights were violated during the course of the trial. However, it cannot issue a new ruling. A National High Court handles cases involving crimes such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The European Court of Human Rights is the final arbiter in cases concerning human rights.
The entire Penal Code was revised in 1996. Changes included the restructuring of the criminal justice system, the introduction of modern offenses and white-collar crimes, an increase in the penalties for fraud offenses, a rise in the legal age at which an individual may be tried for a criminal offense from 16 to 18 years of age, the establishment of other new offenses (including domestic violence and sexual harassment), and an authorization for judges to fine individuals with reference to their wealth. The new code also allows judges more flexibility in sentencing. It eliminates the long-standing tradition of granting credit toward early release for time served for good behavior. The maximum penalty for any one offense under the new code is 25 years, and the maximum time that a person can serve continuously is 30 years, regardless of the cumulative total of sentences. Judges may now deport foreigners whose sentences are 6 years or less.
The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the authorities respect this right in practice. Defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney (at state expense for the indigent). They are released on bail unless the court believes that they may flee or be a threat to public safety. The law calls for an expeditious judicial hearing following arrest. However, the AVT and others have protested delays in the judicial process. By law, suspects may not be confined for more than 2 years before being brought to trial, unless a further delay is authorized by a judge, who may extend pretrial custody to 4 years. A nine-person jury system was established in 1995, and the first jury cases were tried in 1996.
In practice pretrial custody is usually less than 1 year; however, criticism is heard in legal circles that some judges use "preventive custody" as a form of anticipatory sentencing. In cases of petty crime, suspects released on bail sometimes wait up to 5 years for trial. At present, some 24 percent of the prison population is awaiting trial.
Following conviction, defendants may appeal to the next higher court. Human rights groups such as the Association Against Torture and members of the press complain that many persons convicted of offenses constituting violations of human rights avoided sentencing by prolonging the appeals process and that sentences for persons convicted of such offenses are unduly light. According to Amnesty International, custodial sentences of less than 1 year and a day customarily are not served in such cases. In January the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in the December 1997 trial of Tejedor Garcia vs. Spain. The plaintiff, a National Police officer at the time of the incident, was detained in 1989 after he struck and arrested two foreign nationals while off-duty and drunk. He later was suspended from duty for 6 months and ordered to pay a fine and compensation to the victims. Tejedor brought the case to the Court claiming that Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair trial) was violated since he was prosecuted after the expiration of the provisional discharge order made by the investigating judge. The Court was unable to determine the date that the Public Prosecutor's office received the judge's order and therefore dismissed the charges against the Government.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution provides for 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 antiterrorist law gives discretionary authority to the Minister of the Interior to act prior to obtaining court approval in "cases of emergency."
In March National Intelligence Agency (CESID) wiretaps were discovered at the Vitoria headquarters of the political party Herri Batsuna (HB), which, although a legal political party, generally is regarded as the political arm of the Basque terrorist group ETA. The scandal forced the provincial CESID directors in Vizcaya, Alava, and Pamplona to resign and compelled the Minister of Defense to develop a plan to establish greater judicial oversight of CESID operations. The investigation continues.
There were no developments in the case of a judicial investigation into allegations of wiretapping by CESID of private telephone conversations of the King, various ministers, and other prominent figures between 1980 and 1991.
There were also no developments in the investigations of linkages of the CESID to GAL crimes, although the investigations of GAL crimes in general proceeded unabated (see Section 1.a.).
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government respects these provisions in practice. Opposition viewpoints, both from political parties and nonpartisan organizations, are aired freely and widely reflected in the media.
Throughout the year, the pro-ETA political party Herri Batsuna repeatedly denounced the December 1997 conviction of 23 members of its National Committee for collaboration in an armed band as a violation of its members‚ freedom of speech. Each of the convicted HB officials was sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment and a $3,500 fine (Ptas 500,000) in connection with their decision to distribute a videotape made by ETA during HB's 1996 election campaign.
The Government closed the Basque daily newspaper Egin and a radio station affiliated with Egin in July for terrorist-related activities (see Section 1.a.). Charges of aiding terrorists were brought against the editor, Xabier Salutrigi; the investigation continued at year‚s end (see Section 1.a.).
Academic freedom is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The Government treats various religions in different ways. Catholicism is the predominant religion and enjoys the closest official relationship as well as the most benefits. Jews, Muslims, and Protestants (the latter a confederation of many faiths) also have official status but enjoy fewer privileges. These religions have bilateral agreements with the Government. Other recognized religions, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, are covered by constitutional protections but have no special agreements with the Government. Religions not officially recognized, such as the Church of Scientology, are treated as cultural associations. There are over 15,000 Jews and 300,000 Muslims in the country, although most of the latter are transient and dispersed. Religion courses are offered in public schools but are not mandatory.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Citizens are free to travel within and outside the country, to emigrate, and to repatriate. The Government respects these rights in practice.
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations, including the Spanish Committee for Assistance to Refugees (CEAR) in assisting refugees and asylum seekers. Under a 1994 law, asylum requests are adjudicated in a two-stage process with the Office of Asylum and Refugees (OAR) making an initial decision on the admissibility of the application for processing. The Minister of the Interior makes the final decision. The applications admitted for processing are examined by an interagency committee called the Interministerial Committee for Asylum and Refuge (CIAR). The CIAR includes representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Labor, Foreign Affairs, and a nonvoting member of the UNHCR. The decision of the CIAR in each case must be approved by the Minister of the Interior.
The UNHCR advises the authorities throughout the process. In addition, applicants for asylum have the right to have their applications sent immediately to the local office of the UNHCR. The authorities are not bound by the judgment of the UNHCR in individual cases. Appeals of rejection at either stage may be made to the National High Court, and appeals of the National High Court decisions may be made to the Supreme Court.
Asylum requests may be made from outside as well as the country. From outside, anyone can request asylum from a Spanish diplomatic or consular representative. Illegal immigrants are permitted to apply for asylum. Those who lack visas or permission to enter may apply at the frontier or port of entry. The applicant in such cases may be detained until a decision is made regarding the admissibility for processing of the application. In cases of persons who apply from within the country, this normally takes 2 months, but in the case of persons who apply at a port of entry, the period is reduced to 72 hours. The period for filing an appeal in such cases is 24 hours. The Public Defender has challenged the legality of this form of detention before the Constitutional Court and a decision is pending. Applicants have the right under law to free legal assistance regardless of where they are when they apply for asylum. This assistance is available for applicants from the first step in the process through any appeals of negative decisions. The applicant also has the right to the assistance of translators and interpreters, and the OAR admits documents in any language without requiring an official translation.
According to the OAR, a total of 4,975 persons requested asylum in 1997. Of 4,938 cases processed for first screening, 1,554 persons were admitted in 1997. Of 1,587 cases reviewed for second screening by the CIAR in 1997, 156, or 9.83 percent, were granted asylum. There has been a steady drop in the number granted asylum in the past 5 years, since 1,287 were granted asylum in 1993. In the category of temporary admission for humanitarian reasons, 218 persons were admitted in 1997.
The Public Defender expressed his concern over the high percentage of applications not admitted for processing (68.5 percent in 1997). There also has been criticism of the practice of substituting temporary admittance for humanitarian reasons for granting asylum. The former status includes restrictions on access to both the labor market and welfare payments. Another concern is that in some cases individuals whose asylum requests were turned down may have been expelled while their appeals were still in progress, although no statistics are available. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Spain continues to face a wave of illegal immigrants coming across the Strait of Gibraltar. In September 1997 the Ombudsman called for the urgent creation of a committee to address immigration issues. According to police data, 12,132 immigrants were detained in 1997, over three-quarters of whom were Moroccan or Algerian. Authorities say that under "normal" circumstances they intercept no more than 30 percent of those who enter Spain through that zone. In response the Government is resorting to a mix of tighter border controls, liberalized treatment for those who already have established themselves in society, and increased international coordination. In the first 7 months of the year, police dismantled 81 immigrant trafficking networks and made 206 related arrests.
In August opposition parties and human rights groups called for an investigation into the Government's response to the shipwreck of a raft carrying Moroccans attempting to enter Spain illegally. Of the 43 passengers, 38 died, and government critics voiced suspicions that officials may have ignored requests for help from the Moroccan Government. Human rights activists also accused the Government of covering up the incident and not doing enough to crack down on organized crime rings involved in the trafficking of immigrants. The would-be immigrants reportedly paid $1,000 each for passage to Spain. Authorities in the Spanish enclave of Melilla denied the charges, pointing out that the shipwreck occurred in Moroccan territorial waters and claiming that Moroccan officials rejected their offer to provide rescue boats and medical assistance. A total of 61 persons drowned while attempting to enter Spain in 1997, twice the number of victims in 1996.
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 by secret ballot for Parliament. At all levels of government elections are held at least every 4 years. In the 1996 national elections, the Popular Party ended 13 years of Socialist government, and Jose Maria Aznar became Prime Minister.
Governmental power is shared between the central government and 17 regional "autonomous communities." Local nationalist parties give political expression to regional linguistic and cultural identities.
Women are increasing their participation in the political process. The number of female candidates increased in the 1996 national elections, but under the electoral system the percentage of votes won determines the number of candidates elected from the party list. Many women were placed in the lower half of the list. As a consequence of this electoral system, the number of women elected has never reached 25 percent. Women hold 19 percent of parliamentary seats. The 350-member Congress of Deputies has 72 female representatives (22 percent of the total) and the 256-member Senate has 27 (10.4 percent of the total). The Ministers of Justice, Agriculture, Education and Culture, and Environment are women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of nongovernmental human rights groups, including the Human Rights Association of Spain in Madrid and the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia in Barcelona, operate freely without government interference. The Government cooperates readily with international organizations, international nongovernmental human rights groups, and independent national groups investigating allegations of human rights abuses.
The Constitution provides for an Ombudsman, called the "People's Defender," who as part of his duties actively investigates complaints of human rights abuses by the authorities. The Omsbudsman operates independently from any party or government ministry, must be elected every 5 years by a three-fifths majority of the Congress of Deputies, and is immune from prosecution. He has complete access to government institutions and to documents not classified secret for national security reasons.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens. In 1995 Congress modified the Penal Code to make it a crime to "incite, publicize, or otherwise promote the abuse or discrimination of people or groups because of race, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, or religious beliefs." The Office of the People's Defender received approximately 18,000 complaints in 1997. The majority of the complaints pertained to education and social services, although a significant number pertained to racism, domestic violence, and mistreatment by law enforcement agencies. There was a significant decline in the number of complaints about discrimination against groups.
Sexual abuse, violence, and harassment of women in the workplace continued to be problems. The Women's Institute, which is part of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, reported that at least 60 women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends in 1997. (The Federation of Separated and Divorced Women claims that there were 91 such victims in 1997, including women killed in the home by family members other than husbands or boyfriends.) Of these victims, 95 percent were in the process of obtaining a legal separation. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 14,734 complaints of mistreatment of women were reported in 1998, compared with 18,080 in 1997. However, experts believe that only 10 percent of violent acts against women are reported to authorities. Some nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) estimate that from 600,000 to 800,000 cases of abuse occur each year.
The press continued to report gruesome incidents of domestic violence. On January 13, a man detonated an explosive device on a Seville bus following a heated argument with his former girlfriend and her current husband regarding the paternity of the woman's child. Both the attacker and the woman's husband were injured seriously, and the incident left the bus driver deaf. On February 24, a Cadiz man stabbed his wife to death by severing the arteries in her neck; he subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack. On July 11, an Almeria woman fell 6 stories to her death after her boyfriend pushed her off their apartment's balcony.
Jose Bono, president of the autonomous region of Castille-La Mancha, published a series of editorials in El Pais critizing the judiciary's treatment of domestic violence. He focused on the case of Perfecto Andres Ibanez, a judge in Castilla-La Mancha who beat his wife to death in 1989 and was given a suspended sentence for "negligence resulting in death" by the same court on which he sits. Despite the judge's conviction, he continues to adjudicate cases, some involving domestic violence.
The Government adopted in April a new 3-year, $60 million initiative designed to assist victims of domestic violence. The "Plan Against Domestic Violence" criminalizes the violation of restraining orders and the infliction of psychological violence and calls for a quadrupling of the number of offices that assist victims and an expansion of medical and legal services. Other provisions of the plan include: The development of public awareness campaigns in the media and in the schools; the establishment of a domestic abuse database to streamline judicial investigations; increased access of victims to public housing; and greater linkage between medical, police, legal, and counseling services in order to promote an integrated approach to treating victims. Women's rights' advocates, while acknowledging that the plan incorporated many of their demands, expressed disappointment with several of its omissions. The Federation of Separated and Divorced Women criticized the plan as lacking in specifics, particularly its public sensitization campaigns. According to the Federation, the plan's key shortcoming is that it fails to make the issuance of a restraining order automatic upon filing a complaint. Currently, a restraining order is issued only after a guilty verdict.
Several levels of government provide assistance to battered women. A toll-free hot line advises women where to go for government shelter or other aid if mistreated. There are 54 official centers for mistreated women. The Women's Institute charged that some judges are reluctant to get involved in cases of violence against women by members of their family. Similarly, in smaller towns some police officers are reluctant to accept complaints from battered women. Recognizing the latter problem, the Ministry of the Interior initiated a program in 1986 that created special sections within the police department to deal with violence against women, staffed by trained female officers.
Trafficking in women for prostitution, primarily from Latin America, is a growing problem. In March police dismantled a Russian-Azerbaijani organized crime syndicate responsible for smuggling Eastern European women into the country. The men are accused of kidnaping, blackmailing, coercing, and raping the women, who came to Spain with the understanding that they would be given decent jobs but instead were forced into prostitution. The crime ring also is charged with coercing "alternative" nightclub employees who were illegal immigrants into prostitution. In August police arrested four Nigerians for allegedly trafficking in women of sub-Saharan African origin. Members of the smuggling operation promised the women decent jobs and provided them with false passports, money, and plane tickets. However, when the women arrived, the smuggling rings confiscated their passports, forced the women into prostitution, and threatened to harm family members if the women sought police protection.
A 1989 law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but very few cases have been brought to trial under this law. In recent years, women moved towards equality under the law, and there are larger numbers of women in the educational system and work force. According to the NGO Active Population, women received 57 percent of university degrees in 1996 (latest statistics available). The Minister of Social Affairs reports that women constitute 43 percent of the work force. However, according to the Taxation Agency (Agencia Tributaria) and its 1997 report "Employment, Salaries and Pensions" completed by the Institution of Fiscal Studies, women hold only 18 percent of better paying positions. The female unemployment rate, at about 30 percent, is roughly double the male unemployment rate. Women outnumber men in the legal, journalistic, and health care professions but still play minor roles in many other fields.
Discrimination in the workplace and in hiring practices persists. A 1998 study of 100 labor union contracts revealed that 38 contracts failed to use gender-neutral language, 22 employed gender-specific job titles resulting in the imposition of discriminatory wage differentials (i.e., the salary of a male secretary, "secretario," is 13 percent higher than that of a "secretaria" in one food processing industry contract), and only 17 addressed the problem of sexual harassment. While the law mandates equal pay for equal work, a 1997 report by the Economic and Social Affairs Council shows that women's salaries still remain 27 percent lower than those of their male counterparts. The Council states that women are more apt to have temporary contracts and part-time employment than men. The National Association of Rural Women and Families (ANFAR) reported in 1995 that 80 percent of rural women are not employed formally but instead aid their husbands in farming or fishing. ANFAR reported that these women lack titles to family enterprises and do not receive the same social security benefits as the male head of household.
In March the Parliament unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution urging the Government to calculate the value of nonrenumerated work performed each year and include this value in an adjunct Gross Domestic Product account. This would include domestic and volunteer work as well as unpaid work in family businesses and farming operations, the majority of it done by women.
The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's welfare through well-funded and easily accessed programs of education and health care. Education is compulsory until age 16 and free until age 18. The Constitution obligates both the state and parents to protect children, whether or not born in wedlock. The Ministries of Health and Social Affairs are responsible for the welfare of children and have created numerous programs to aid needy children. Numerous NGO's exist to further children's rights. For example, the school help program for the protection of children has a team of experts who work with educators to help identify abused or abandoned children in the classroom.
The 1995 Law of the Child gives legal rights of testimony to minors in child abuse cases; it also obliges all citizens to act on cases of suspected child abuse and, for the first time, sets out rules regarding foreign adoptions. Under the new Penal Code, children under the age of 18 are not considered responsible for their actions and cannot be sent to prison.
A 1996 penitentiary law lowered the maximum age that a child can remain with an incarcerated mother from 6 to 3 years. When the children reach their third birthday, they are sent to live with relatives or are placed in an institution. Some prisons have special units for mothers with children under age 3. They usually include a kindergarten, psychological support, and ways for children to get out of prison regularly. About 143 children live in jail with their mothers. Family groups with children under the age of 3 can now stay together in cases where both parents are convicts. Officials estimate that there are currently around 50 couples who meet the program's requirements.
In August the United Nations Children‚s Fund called for an investigation into the use of child labor on tomato farms in Badajoz (see Section 6.d.).
People With Disabilities
The Constitution calls for the state to provide for the adequate treatment and care of the disabled, ensuring that they are not deprived of the basic rights that apply to all citizens. The law aims to ensure fair access to public employment, prevent disability, and facilitate access to public facilities and transportation. The national law serves as a guide for regional laws; however, levels of assistance and accessibility differ from region to region and have not improved in many areas.
The 1996 Penal Code continues to allow parents or legal representatives of a mentally disabled person to petition a judge to obtain permission for the sterilization of that person. In 1994 the Constitutional Court held that sterilization of the mentally infirm does not constitute a violation of the Constitution. In practice many courts have authorized such surgery. Religious groups continue to protest this ruling.
Public opinion surveys indicate the continued presence of racism and xenophobia. A February poll of teenagers published in the daily El Mundo found that while 86 percent of those surveyed denied being racist, 38 percent subscribed to the belief of white racial supremacy. Of these surveyed, 27 percent would expel Roma if given the opportunity, 24 percent are in favor of ejecting Arabs, and 15 percent advocate the same fate for Jews. Over 50 percent would be uncomfortable marrying a Roma or an Arab.
Roma, who make up 2.5 percent of the population, continue to suffer discrimination in jobs, schools, and housing. Romani activists attribute the high incidence of Romani informal sector employment in agriculture and peddling (an estimated 75 to 80 percent) to discrimination and historical marginalization. Although the Madrid High Court of Justice struck down a city ordinance prohibiting peddling, the NGO Gypsy Presence reports that local authorities continue to enforce the ban. According to the organization, the largest Roma-rights NGO, several other municipalities have enacted similar statutes, and this has been detrimental to the economic welfare of many Roma. Romani women suffer even more acute difficulties when seeking employment, since employers are reluctant to hire women from ethnic groups with high birth rates.
A 1998 study found that only 35 percent of Romani children are fully integrated into the educational system. Truancy and dropout rates are very high, and Romani parents, over 80 percent of whom are functionally illiterate, often do not see the value of an education or are unaware of the educational opportunities for their children.
An unofficial government tendency to prioritize non-Roma squatter resettlement over Roma resettlement has led to an increasing proportion of Roma in shantytowns: Roma went from constituting 55 percent of the shantytown population in 1975 to constituting 95 of the squatter population in 1990. The Consortium for the Marginal Population, which receives funding from the Madrid municipality and autonomous community, rehoused 211 families in 1997 at a cost of $15 million.
The Office of the People's Defender, Gypsy Presence, SOS Racismo, and Greenpeace continued to criticize the Romani squatter settlement in Canada Real's substandard environmental and sanitary conditions. The squatters were relocated to Canada Real in 1994, when Madrid officials sold the public land on which they were settled to developers. The non-Romani families displaced were transferred to public housing, while the dislodged Roma were moved to Canada Real with the promise that prefabricated housing would soon be built for them on the site. Legal documents show that the land was not zoned for residential construction, and the plans soon were abandoned. Sanitary conditions are poor due to the lack of a sewage hookup, the lack of running water to individual homes, and the presence of many rats and insects. Residents are said to suffer from a high incidence of respiratory ailments, chronic diarrhea, and skin infections. A 1997 Council of Europe fact-finding mission expressed concern over the proximity of Canada Real to a garbage incinerator and a pig farm shut down by public health authorities in 1995. The Council's report cited controversial reports documenting the incinerator's emission of carcinogenic chemicals such as dioxides and sodium cyanide and the dumping of medical waste products and the remains of dead animals into nearby rivers. However, the Madrid High Court's findings in a 1997 case contradicted these reports, however. The Court declared that the incinerator did not pose a threat to public health. The Public Prosecutor announced that he would appeal. The People's Defender announced that he would solicit Parliament's help in solving the problem, since the Madrid city government had failed to act on his recommendations. Gypsy Presence intends to ask the World Health Organization to commission a study of the site's sanitary conditions.
A language or dialect other than Castillian Spanish is used in 6 of the 17 autonomous communities. The Constitution stipulates that citizens have "the duty to know" Castillian, which is the "official language of the state," but it adds that other languages also can be official under regional statutes and that the "different language variations of Spain are a cultural heritage which shall...be protected."
The Law of the Catalan Language, approved by the Catalan regional legislature (Generalitat) in January, stipulates the use of Catalan as the official language in local government and administrative offices, regional courts, publicly-owned corporations, and private companies subsidized by the Catalan regional government. Spanish-speaking citizens are provided with the right to be dealt with by public officials in Spanish. The legislation also establishes minimum quotas for Catalan-language radio and television programming. Many activists in Catalonia's Spanish-speaking community criticized the law for discriminating against Spanish-speaking citizens and imposing "linguistic hegemony" on a diverse population. Lawsuits regarding specific applications of this law are pending in various courts. Both Galicia and Valencia have laws stating the duty of the Government to "promote" their regional languages in schools and at official functions.
The debate continued over the extent to which the Basque language (Euskera) should be promoted. The Union of Basque-Speaking Lawyers, affiliated with the pro-ETA HB political party, intensified its campaign against the use of translation services in trials of Basque-speaking citizens, and students demanding exclusively Basque language instruction disrupted an April meeting of the staff of the University of the Basque Country. In July a Vizcaya judge suspended a trial because a non-Basque-speaking attorney requested a translator.
The case of the neo-Nazi, Pedro Varela Geiss, is the first to be tried under a provision of the Penal Code modified in 1995 that criminalizes discrimination. A Barcelona court in November convicted Varela and sentenced the bookshop owner to 5 years in prison for denying the Holocaust and for promoting racism and anti-Semitism. Varela was arrested in 1996 when the police confiscated thousands of pro-Nazi books and videotapes as well as hundreds of swastikas and other Nazi propaganda material in a raid on his bookshop in Barcelona.
Human rights groups and the media continued to give increasing attention to discrimination against the growing numbers of illegal immigrants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 1996 study by the Youth Institute in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, 91 percent of persons under the age of 29 would like to see immigration further restricted. Although only 1.3 percent of the population is foreign born, and the Government reduced the number of work permits issued to foreigners by 10 percent in 1995, 60 percent of the respondents in the survey said that they believed that immigrants caused employment problems for them. The Association of Moroccan Immigrant Laborers has offices in Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville to combat anti-Moroccan racism, and Madrid has a special administrative office to deal with immigrant complaints.
In November in Almeria, a group of about 2,000 persons took to the streets to protest the killing of Abdel Khalek Al Ammary, a Moroccan immigrant who was shot and killed by 2 hooded men. They asked for justice and the prompt investigation of the killing by the local authorities. In addition to protesting the killing, the protesters sought to call attention to their substandard living and working conditions. The immigrants called for higher salaries and improved housing facilities. They claimed that immigrant workers represent 80 percent of the agricultural work force and as such have contributed to the social development of the area. Only Izquieda Unida (IU), a leftist coalition whose largest member is the Spanish Communist Party, backed the protest.
According to press reports in November, Muslim immigrants complained about discriminatory treatment because they reside in the enclave of Melilla. According to the reports, several hundred Muslim residents of Melilla have experienced some sort of discrimination because of their unclear legal status in the area. The National Islamic Commission of Melilla (CIM) charges that the government of Melilla hindered legal immigrants from renewing or applying for their documentation. Starting in 1985, members of the Muslim population of Melilla who resided legally in the country were given special identification cards that serves as a form of national identification document but does not entitle the bearer to permanent residency in Spain. However, these documents represented a first step to a more permanent legal status. Mohamed Ahmed Moh, the Secretary General of CIM, said that the Government utilizes any and all possible excuses for either denying or delaying the issuance of residency documents in the hopes of interfering with the legal deadlines during which the immigrants would be entitled to apply for permanent residency. Since 1985 6,000 Muslim residents of Melilla have applied for documentation and still are waiting for a response.
In May the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of two police officers for coercing and extorting illegal immigrants. Some of their activities included robbing and briefly kidnaping a Turkish citizen and ordering an Iranian to handle a gun and a packet of drugs so that they could implicate him later in a crime. The officers were given 13-year sentences, and a third police officer was given a 7-year sentence for collaborating with them.
International human rights groups continued to criticize poor conditions in detention centers holding illegal immigrants (see Section 1.c.). Amnesty International expressed concern over increased police assaults on persons of non-European ethnic origin (see Section 1.c.).
Quasi-organized rightwing youth groups (called "skinheads" by the press) continued to commit violent acts throughout the year, terrorizing minorities. National police estimate the total number of skinheads to be several thousand; however, they say that the skinheads are not organized to plan specific actions. The NGO SOS Racismo reported a significant increase in complaints of discrimination, racism, and racially motivated attacks in 1997. SOS Racismo attributed the increase to heightened societal awareness. The organization noted an increase in incidents reported in rural areas and regions with large immigrant populations and a decrease in incidents reported in urban areas. At a football match in Madrid in December, a skinhead stabbed and killed a fan of the visiting team.
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. All that is required to organize a trade union is for more than two workers to register with the Minister of Labor and Social Security. Over 200 trade unions are registered; 1 is not registered legally (because the Constitutional Court ruled that it was ineligible, since it represents military personnel).
Under the Constitution, trade unions are free to choose their representatives, determine their policies, represent their members' interests, and strike. They are not restricted or harassed by the Government and are independent of political parties. A strike in nonessential services is legal if its sponsors give 5 days' notice. Any striking union must respect minimum service requirements negotiated with the respective employer. The right to strike was interpreted by the Constitutional Court to include general strikes called to protest government policy. From January to September, 388 strikes took place in which 4,276,000 workers participated. The number of strikes declined steadily since the early part of the decade.
Unions are free to form or join federations and affiliate with international bodies and do so without hindrance.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
A 1980 statute provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively. Trade union and collective bargaining rights were extended in 1986 to all workers in the public sector except military personnel. Public sector collective bargaining in 1990 was broadened to include salaries and employment levels, but the Government retained the right to set these if negotiations failed. Collective bargaining agreements are widespread in both the public and private sectors; in the latter they cover 60 percent of workers, notwithstanding that only about 15 percent of workers are actually union members.
The law prohibits discrimination by employers against trade union members and organizers. Discrimination cases have priority in the labor courts. The law gives unions a role in controlling temporary work contracts to prevent the abuse of such contracts and of termination actions. Nonetheless, unions contend that employers discriminate in many cases by refusing to renew the temporary contracts of workers engaging in union organizing. More than one-third of all employees are under temporary contracts, and the number is growing.
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 country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor, including that performed by children, is outlawed and generally is not practiced; the law is enforced effectively. However, there were instances of trafficking in women who were forced into prostitution (see Section 5).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The statutory minimum age for the employment of children is 16 years. The Ministry of Labor and Social Afairs is primarily responsible for enforcement. The minimum age is enforced effectively in major industries and in the service sector. It is more difficult to enforce on small farms and in family-owned businesses. Legislation prohibiting child labor is enforced effectively in the special economic zones. The law also prohibits the employment of persons under the age of 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous. The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor by children, and it is enforced effectively (see Section 6.c.).
In August the United Nation‚s Children‚s Fund called for an investigation into child labor on tomato farms in Badajoz. According to Red Cross personnel providing assistance to migrant farm workers there, over 200 children under the age of 16, the majority Portuguese citizens, worked 10-hour days and earned less than $14 (Ptas 2,000) per day. Many of the children were less than 10 years old. At a labor union‚s urging, the People's Defender opened an investigation.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage was set in December 1997 for 1998 and is $15.12 (Ptas 2,268) per day or $453.60 (Ptas 68,040) per month. This represents a 2.1 percent increase compared with 1997. The legal minimum wage for workers over 18 years of age is considered sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The rate is revised every year in line with the consumer price index and is enforced effectively by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The law sets a 40-hour workweek with an unbroken rest period of 36 hours after each 40 hours worked. Workers enjoy 12 paid holidays a year and a month's paid vacation.
Government mechanisms exist for enforcing working conditions and occupational health and safety rules, but bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome and inefficient. Safety and health legislation is being revised to conform to European Union (EU) directives. The Law to Prevent Labor Risks was passed in 1995 as the foundation for the completion of the rest of the EU directives. The National Institute of Safety and Health in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security has technical responsibility for developing labor standards, but the Inspectorate of Labor has responsibility for enforcing the legislation through judicial action when infractions are found. Workers have firm legal protection for filing complaints about hazardous conditions, but easily replaced temporary workers may be reluctant to use this protection for fear of losing their jobs.[end of document]
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