The 1978 Constitution abolishes the death penalty, except during wartime. The 1995 Act abolishes the death penalty at all times. The last executions took place in 1975, when two militants from the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) were shot.
Deaths in detention
In its 2014 report, the Spanish penal administration – the General Secretariat for Penitentiary Institutions – reports 128 deaths (119 men and 9 women) in penitentiary establishments or reference hospitals. Twenty-five (25) other deaths were recorded during early leave.
The average age of those who died was 48 years.
The most frequent causes of death are cardiovascular diseases, tumours, digestive disorders (73 people), followed by overdoses, mostly of methadone and benzodiazepines (29 deaths), and suicides (28 people). Twelve (12) patients died of HIV/AIDS. Four deaths were accident-related and two were assault-related.
The penal statistics for 2014 – concerning 2013- from the European Council (SPACE) show an increase in the suicide rate since 2010. While this rate was at 4.1% in 2010 for Spain and 4.6% for Catalonia (SPACE report 2010), in 2013, it increased to 5% for Spain and to 10% for Catalonia, despite a decrease of 1.2% in the total prison population (Spain and Catalonia)[^1].
In March 2014, the General Secretariat for Penitentiary Institutions approved a suicide prevention framework program. Its aim was to identify the risk situations and to determine the means of intervention. For the ACAIP association (Group of Administrative Penitentiary Institutions), this increase is the result of the budgetary restrictions, which have reduced the number of penitentiary staff.
According to the 2015 report of the coordination for the prevention and denouncement of torture, the inmate C.M.B.F. hanged herself in her cell, on May 16 2015, at the Villabonas prison (Asturias). This woman had already tried to commit suicide weeks earlier and the anti-suicide protocol had been applied to her.
Between 2004 and 2014, the Coordination for the Prevention of Torture has recorded 3,261 complaints of torture or ill-treatment concerning a total of 7 812 people. 128 complaints were recorded in 2015, of which 36 took place in penitentiary establishments and 3 in centres for minors.
Since 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (CEDH) condemned Spain on six occasions for violation of the Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, mainly due to lack of effective investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Judges often only read the medical examiner’s report and decide based on the latter.
In a report published in 2013, the Catalan Institute for Human Rights consider that, although it is not a systematic practice, the Spanish judiciary system allows the commission on torturous acts. The Article 520 of the Penal Procedure Code establishes the incommunicado detention regime as follows: an imprisoned person may spend up to thirteen days without being able to speak to a lawyer, without being examined by a doctor and without their family or their consulate being informed of their place of detention. Solitary confinement must be justified and rendered valid by a judge1.
The sentence for mistreatment or torture is six years of imprisonment. The Committee Against Torture (CAT) of the United Nations considers that the sentences are not commensurate with the gravity of the crime. Since 1998, the State has pardoned 33 members of the security forces who were accused of this infraction2.
In 2011, the CAT requested that the Spanish State limit solitary confinement strictly to necessary cases and not to extend the length beyond 14 days.
Raquel E.F. committed suicide April 11, 2015, after having spent nine months in confinement. The personnel at the Brians I Prison (Barcelona) decided to keep her in solitary confinement although she had shown suicidal intentions. The case was the subject of media cover: Raquel left a letter addressed to the Prison Inspection Judge (Cf Acces to legal rights) in which she denounced the poor treatment the penitentiary staff inflicted on her several days earlier. The Irida Centre for the Defence of Human Rights deferred the case to the competent judiciary authorities3.