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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 5:17 pm on March 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2012 

    The 2013 Pro Igual submission for the OSCE-ODIHR Annual Report on Hate Crimes highlights the deficient Spanish legislative framework regulating political parties whose goals and activities contravene democratic values of the Spanish Constitution. As a result, political parties which openly propagate xenophobia and intolerance are allowed to exist and operate, gain adepts and even attain legislative seats.

    As in previous years, Pro Igual calls to attention of the national authorities and international monitoring bodies that hate crimes are not isolated incidents and do not take place in a vacuum. Activities of the legally permitted extreme right parties in Spain are one of the strongest factors contributing to a fertile climate for xenophobic hate crimes. It should come as no surprise that the hate crimes committed by adherents of extreme right and neo-Nazi ideology are becoming ever more brazen and premeditated.

    Notwithstanding some steps taken by the Spanish State to address hate crimes, even despite the simultaneous decrease of net immigrant population, the number of such crimes in Spain does not diminishes but continues to steadily rise.

    The Pro Igual Report is available here.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 1:54 pm on February 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    The extreme right in Spain: Neo-Nazis in Catalonia 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH PRO IGUAL

    Backround

    Neo-Nazis in Catalonia are by far not a new phenomenon. One of the first legal cases involving neo-Nazis in Spain took place in Barcelona, most importantly the case of the notorious Libreria Europa. Its owner, Pedro Varela, was sentenced in 1998 to five years in prison and a large fine for the denial of Holocaust and incitement to hate. However, Libreria Europa has never been closed and to this date serves as an important congregation center for neo-Nazi and extreme right elements from around the world.

    In recent decades, Catalonia has seen the most considerable increase in the numbers of organized and violent neo-Nazi groups, alongside Madrid and Andalusia. The Catalan authorities have tended to downplay the seriousness of the situation, although the authorities did commission a White Paper analyzing the phenomenon of xenophobic juvenile violence and possible motives behind it as early as in 1999. Since then the number of extreme right elements in Catalonia has at least doubled, from an estimated 1000 members to approximately 2000 of followers today. Most are aged under 25 and often come from a humble socio-economic background.

    Neo-Nazis in Catalonia oppose the region´s aspirations towards independence, instead promoting the idea of a unified national Spain. This difference of opinion apparently does not preclude close ideological links between them and the ultra-nationalist Catalonian parties, such as Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC), in so far as both violently oppose non-European immigration, particularly from Muslim countries.

    Recent violent incidents

    There have been a number of high-profile violent incidents involving neo-Nazi elements in Barcelona over the recent years.

    • In June 2011, an anti-racist immigrant activist was attacked entering her own home in Sitges (Barcelona) by three hooded men, alleged neo-Nazis. The victim was severely beaten and burnt with a cigarette, while being racially abused and insulted. The attackers managed to escape.
    • In October 2011, a group of anti-fascist activists attempted to stop the neo-Nazi concert in Poblenou (Barcelona). Only involvement of the police (Mossos d´Esquadra) prevented full-blown clashes between the adversaries.

    As recently as in 2012, neo-Nazis have been responsible for several brazen premeditated attacks in Barcelona and vicinities:

    • In March 2012, skinheads attacked and brutally beat a group of anti-fascists at a discotheque in Manresa; several persons were critically injured, one nearly killed. The attack was carefully planned and carried out by a well-organized group committed to propagating its openly neo-Nazi ideology. The attackers displayed a military formation while throwing firebombs inside the concert venue to create confusion, and then used metal bars, knives and brass knuckle to inflict damage onto their victims.
    • In July 2012, during the European football championship, a group of c. 30 skinheads attacked several immigrants in the center of Barcelona; some of the victims required considerable medical attention. The skinheads displayed Spanish flags – including those from the Franco era – as well as Nazi symbols, and engaged in acts of vandalism setting on fire street containers and Catalan flags, and throwing stones and other heavy objects at the police that came to stop them.

    Present state

    The most recent trend in the neo-Nazi movement in Catalonia has been tactical transformation, focusing less on the external manifestation, such as shaven heads, swastikas and Nazi salutes, and more on inconspicuous but sinister popularization of xenophobic slogans and recruitment of disenfranchized young men disillusioned with their chances in life and without any prospects for the better.

    The extreme right movement is currently also much better organized and financed and enjoys connections to the officially registered parties of the racist and xenophobic breed, such as National Alliance and the Social Republican Movement, in addition to the previously mentioned PxC. (To read more about the Spanish extreme right parties, please see PRO IGUAL´s earlier article available here.)

    Today, more than ever, the extreme right movement in Catalonia poses a clear and present threat to the established democratic principles and fundamental rights and freedoms, something to which the Catalonian authorities should start paying much more serious attention.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:39 pm on August 27, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and xenophobic parties in Spain, Part II 

    By Daria Terradez Salom, CIDH Pro Igual

    This is Part II of the article analyzing Spanish extreme right and xenophobic parties. It continues the Pro Igual series of blogs exploring the connection between the extreme right movement and hate crimes in Spain. 

    Party pluralism is a barometer of the political health of a state, as well as a fundamental pillar of the democracy. The very first article of the Spanish Constitution affirms “political pluralism” as one of the “superior values” of the Spanish political system. That said, it is unfortunate that under the guise of freedom of expression and that same political pluralism, the forces are surging that propagate racism, xenophobia and exaggerated protection of the “Spanishness” in face of supposed invasion of foreigners “threatening” national stability, social tradition and culture in Spain. This analysis sheds light on the apparent discord between the legal existence of hate-mongering parties and organizations, on the one hand, and the democratic system and the rule of law, on the other. We seek to explain, by analyzing the existing legal framework, how such political parties manage to legally exist, take part in elections and enjoy participation in local organs of the government.

    We must stress that the present analysis by no means pretends to play down the importance freedom of expression, association or political pluralism. However, we do believe that from the point of view of active democracy there must be reasonable limits on the abuse of fundamental rights, for the sake of democracy itself.

    Constitution

    In addition to Article 1 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution listing political pluralism among the “supreme values,” Article 6 states: “Political parties express democratic pluralism, assist in the formulation and manifestation of the popular will, and are a basic instrument for political participation. Their creation and the exercise of their activity are free within the observance of the Constitution and the laws.” (“Emphasis added.)

    The Constitution envisions a rather flexible regulatory framework for political parties. But if apparently there are minimal limits on the creation of political parties to guarantee political pluralism, the constitutional limit acquires even greater importance. Freedom to form political parties is bound to respect the supreme norms, and one of such norms is respect for fundamental rights, including nondiscrimination established in Article 14 of the Constitution, as well as human dignity outlined in Article 10, paragraph 1, as a basis for public order and social peace. Article 6 is also closely related to Article 22, which establishes the fundamental right to association, and to Article 16, which guarantees freedom of ideology and beliefs.

    Political parties play an enormously important role in the democratic life of the state. They are a sign of political pluralism and of respect for the fundamental freedoms of ideology and association. They are not random formations, but are communities of like-minded individuals, who can take part in the elections and represent the wishes of their voters. That means they can end up in the state´s representative organs, which obligates them to firmly respect the Constitution and the legal norms regulating their activities.

    Law 54/1978 on Political Parties

    The Law 54/1978, presently superseded by a newer legislation of 2002, was the first norm regulating the creation of political parties in Spain. It was promulgated in 1978, just a few days before the Constitution. The 1978 Law established essentially an absolute freedom for establishing political parties, derived from the fundamental right to association. At that time Spain was trying to shake off forty years of the dictatorship and it was crucial to maximally facilitate the creation of political parties to ensure the uttermost political pluralism and representation which up to that point simply had not existed.

    The Law 54/1978 did not establish a rigid procedure for registering parties. In practice, the only limit on the party establishment and activities was a clear intent to commit a criminal offense or to fail to respect democratic norms, nothing more. When the registration documentation was delivered to the Ministry of Interior, the latter examined the papers and if there were no indications that the entity planned to commit a criminal offense, the party was registered. If such indications were noted, the Interior forwarded the papers to the Prosecutor who re-examined them. Only if the Prosecutor also found the intent to commit illegal activities, could the party be denied registration or dissolved.

    Such initially very liberal framework resulted in proliferation of political parties, including political organizations with extreme nationalist tendencies, for example, the Basque parties demanding political independence. We must also add that, thanks to the Law 21/1976 on the Right to Political Association, Falange Española de las JONS (established in 1976) – the only legal party under the Franco regime – managed to join the democratic playfield, despite having foundations clearly contrary to the Constitutional principles that would be adopted two years later.

    The Spanish political panorama since 1978 till the derogation of the Law 54/1978 has been developing in giant steps, given an incredible ease with which new parties could be registered. It was necessary for the young democracy, which Spain was at the time, to catch up, by guaranteeing political pluralism and stressing the importance of fundamental political rights, such as freedom of expression, ideology and association.

    Organic Law 6/2002 on Political Parties

    After 25 years of the original law on political parties, there was a broad consensus that the time was ripe for a new legislation. The two main reasons, expressed in the Preamble of the new Law 6/2002 on Political Parties (hereafter, “LOPP”), were as follows. Besides being pre-constitutional, the 1978 Law was simply too brief and by then has fulfilled its objective of “establishing a simple procedure for registering political parties.” Sufficient time has passed and experience has been accumulated on functioning political parties, so as to systematize and adapt this experience to the more mature constitutional system.

    The second reason for changing the law was much more critical. It was recognition that the old norm lacked “concrete constitutional limits for the establishment and functioning of parties and for their conformity with the Constitution and the laws.” Obviously, the old law could not demand conformity with the Constitution which at that moment had not yet been adopted. And that reason alone necessitated the adoption of the new norm.

    Noting passing, this omission in the old law is responsible for allowing the registration of the PxC and Democracia Nacional (both established prior to the 2002 LOPP), parties known for their racist and xenophobic tenor. The new LOPP aimed to prevent that: “the goal is to guarantee the democratic system and fundamental liberties of the citizens and to prevent that parties, in a continued and aggravated manner, attack this democratic order based on liberties, justify racism and xenophobia or support violence and terrorist activities.”

    However, notwithstanding some convincing reasoning in the Preamble, not all of the intended constitutional boundaries entered into the text of the new LOPP. For example:

    • In the Preamble to the new LOPP, the legislator reasoned that some other (foreign) legal systems when regulating fundamental rights have “formulated much more categorically a duty of compliance and stricter subjection to the constitutional order, and moreover a positive duty to realize the active defense and pedagogy of democracy, withfailure to fulfill this duty leading to the exclusion from the legal order and democratic system.” Such “pedagogy of democracy” is not part of the constitutional doctrine in Spain where any “project or objective is deemed compatible with the Constitution so long as it does not involve activities violating democratic principles or fundamental rights of citizens.”Thus, the pedagogical aspect of democracy has been omitted from the text of the new LOPP.
    • While putting emphasis on political pluralism, the legislator seemed to forget that Article 1 of the Constitution also listed liberty, justice and equality as “superior values” of the social and democratic rule-of-law state. If we add to this the concept of human dignity, advanced in Article 10 as the basis for a political order and social peace, and affirmed by the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal (hereafter, “CT”) as a logical and ontological prius for the existence and fulfillment of all other human rights (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional 53/1985), then parties infringing on human dignity should not be allowed to exist. Instead, the legislator added that this norm “is placed in equilibrium, carefully mediating between the high degree of freedom inherent in political pluralism and respect for the human rights and democracy.” This argument was trying to explain the reasons for excessive laxness of the law, but still left the door open to promoting pretty much “any project,” as stated in the Preamble, without articulating further limits.
    • The legislator expressed the intent to prevent that “a political party… attack the democratic order based on liberties, justify racism and xenophobia or support violence and terrorist activities.” However, the new law overlooked a small and seemingly insignificant detail. The cited paragraph of the Preamble mentions as separate activities, on the one hand, “justification of racism and xenophobia,” and on the other hand, “political support for terrorist activities,” separated by “or.” This “or” disappeared from Article 9 of the LOPP being substituted by “and.” The result of this substitution is that in order to be deemed illegal, parties or political organizations need to do both, otherwise, by default, they could continue their activities.

    While the new LOPP stipulated that “political parties could operate freely,” it did set out the boundaries on their activities: “They must respect constitutional values expressed in democratic principles and human rights.” The LOPP further outlined the motives for outlawing and potentially dissolving a political party:

    A political party shall be deemed illegal when its activities violate democratic principles, especially when it attempts to undermine or destroy the order of liberties or make impossible or eliminate the democratic system by one of the following acts, committed repeatedly and maliciously:

    a) Violate systematically fundamental rights and freedoms, by promoting, justifying or glorifying attempts on life or on integrity of persons based on ideology, religion or beliefs, nationality, race, gender or sexual orientation.

    One is left to wonder how a party like España 2000 could have passed through the filter of this norm and was legally registered, given its racist and xenophobic attitude it does not even try to conceal either in the founding documents or in public declarations of its official representatives.

    There are two more grounds for dissolution. However, this is where the legislator substituted “or” with “and” (please see above), thus requiring both clauses to be satisfied in order to ban or dissolve a party. So the apparent intention of the legislator here was not so much to ensure the existence of parties that respect the Constitution and fundamental human rights, as to outlaw political formations that supported ETA (a Basque terrorist organization).

    We do not mean to criticize this legislative intent, but wish to warn of the danger of political organizations which even though do not officially resort to violence still attack fundamental rights and the very Constitution by their discourse and attitudes. The law, in principle, should have prevented that. It is not healthy for our democracy that parties, openly propagating the inferiority of other races and calling for denying to specific groups of people some of the most fundamental human rights, enjoy the constitutional freedom to act in this manner.

    Constitutional jurisprudence

    In one of the earlier cases before the CT, the case of Violeta Friedman, concerning the revisionism and denial of the Holocaust by Leon Degrelle, a Nazi fugitive resident in Spain, the Court de facto recognized limits of the freedom of expression in the face of human dignity. It reasoned that in regards of human dignity (Article 10), there is an obligation to respect it, and “in so far as public bodies and citizens are subject to the Constitution and the rest of the legal order, this has to be demanded also of political parties.”

    However, in the case of Pedro Varela Geiss – Librería Europa (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional 235/2007), the CT issued a confusing decision. On the one hand, Varela´ conviction for denying the Holocaust was confirmed. On the other hand, the CT ruled unconstitutional the provisions of the Penal Code that restricted activities of political parties. The CT rejected the argument of the prosecution that the Spanish system does not follow the model of “militant democracy” and thus fundamental rights cannot be restricted even if used for unconstitutional purposes. This, by the way, was the same reasoning found in the Preamble to the 2002 LOPP. The CT did affirm that there are limits to Article 20.1 of the Constitution regarding freedom of expression when expression is “vilifying, racist or humiliating” to human dignity. The reason for declaring the provision of the Penal Code unconstitutional was its interference with the exercise of the right to freedom of expression itself.

    In the more recent case, which concerned the dissolution of a political party (Fundamento jurídico 16, Sentence 5/2004, of 16 January 2004: dissolution and banning of the Herri batasuna), it was re-affirmed in respect of political parties that those are “a medium designed for expressing pluralism and to which they serve as expression; consequently, they find in freedom of ideology the basis necessary for defining their political identity, a genuine reference for those whom they offer to represent in the process of forming the popular will.” The CT added that “restricting the liberty to create political parties amounts to trampling the rights for whose exercise … this liberty has been conceived in the first place.”

    The party in question was dissolved and banned. Yet the case served to reiterate the tremendous importance attached in the Spanish juridical system to providing protection to political parties and organizations, given their role of the guarantor of other fundamental rights and freedoms.

    Conclusions

    Analysis of Spanish legal norms and constitutional jurisprudence on the matters of political parties and freedom of speech leads to various conclusions.

    One of the conclusions is that the Spanish constitutional system seems to waver when it comes to condemning racist and xenophobic expressions and attitudes of political parties, which do no more than contaminate the quality of our rule-of-law state. Even though such parties are in minority, they still enjoy representation in the state organs of power, with all the consequences this entails.

    Another conclusion is that we cannot ignore the latent danger posed for democracy by political parties and organizations propagating racism and xenophobia. With the ongoing economic crisis, their scape-goating of immigration becomes much more extensive and socially acceptable than would be appropriate and desirable in our democratic system.

    The final conclusion is that freedom of expression should not be a catchall where every ideology could be lumped together. Human dignity is a natural and necessary limit on free speech. The Spanish state ought to adopt a more pro-active approach of “militant democracy” and constitutional pedagogy to prevent that political pluralism and freedom of expression are swayed by anti-democratic discourse.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:57 pm on June 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    How much for racism? 

    CIDH Pro Igual

    It´s that season again: sport passions run high; flags, chants and painted faces everywhere. Must be the European football cup. Yet some fans have been bad sport.

    Due to racist outbursts during the matches, scores of fans of Russian and Croatian football teams have been sanctioned; some perpetrators have been deported, and some even face criminal charges. But despite those sanctions, some question just how seriously the UEFA is really taking racism in football?

    Croatia’s punishment for fans’ abuse of Mario Balotelli was nearly €20K less than a fine for one footballer earlier on for showing sponsored pants.

    English footballers Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany criticised the UEFA decision and called on the football body to “review their priorities,” while Ferdinand tweeted: “Uefa are you for real? £80,000 fine for Bendtner. All of the racism fines together don’t even add up to that?!”

    Indeed.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:57 pm on April 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Anti-discrimination “crisis cards”: know your rights and defend them 

    Low awareness about one´s rights and opportunities for redress for rights violations can be a serious obstacle to attaining equality. Unfortunately, groups which are most likely to experience discrimination are also the ones which are least likely to know their rights and of the existing remedies. Thus, despite considerable evidence of discrimination and harassment against minorities, foreigners, and other vulnerable groups – in Spain as elsewhere, – reporting of discrimination is rather low. Known cases most probably present only a tip of the iceberg.

    In response to this problem, CIDH Pro Igual has developed anti-discrimination “crisis cards.” The AD “crisis cards” provide key information for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and other most likely victims of discrimination in Spain on steps to take if they experienced discrimination or harassment from public or private entities. The “crisis cards” are currently available on the Pro Igual website: http://www.cidh.es/ in EnglishSpanish, and  Romanian for downloading, printing, and sharing. In future, translations into other languages spoken by the principal minority and immigrant groups in Spain will be also available. In addition, Pro Igual will look into opportunities to disseminate this practice among other NGOs, as well as official bodies, and develop other thematic cards.

    USER INSTRUCTIONS: Each A4 sheet contains five cards that should be cut along the horizontal lines and folded in half, so they become a size of an average credit card. If desired, the cards can be also laminated and kept along with other cards in one´s wallet.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:58 am on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Pro Igual submission toward the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011 

    Recent CIDH Pro Igual submission for the OSCE Annual Report on Hate Crimes 2011 focuses on three main issues that are crucial for understanding and addressing hate crimes in Spain: 1) weak legislative framework against hate crimes, 2) increase in extreme right membership, and 3) infiltration of law enforcement by extreme right elements.

    The first issue is weak legislative framework for dealing with hate crimes and absence of the data on hate crimes. As covered in one of our earlier blog articles, the Spanish law against hate crimes is obsolete and ineffective. Adopted in 1995, the Spanish Penal Code does not even include the concept of “hate crimes.” The application of other relevant provisions is restrictive and inconsistent, resulting in an underestimated record of hate crimes within the judicial system and failing to deter hate crimes.

    The second issue is increasing number of adherents to extreme right organizations and their activism. In the past five years, the number of skinheads in Spain has more than tripled from c.3,000 to well over 10,000. Likewise, the number of neo-nazi, neo-fascist and other extreme right organizations and groups has nearly tripled from c.70 some five years ago to c.200 as of 2011. Their activism and appeal has intensified in the context of the economic crisis and rampant unemployment among the youths.

    The third issue is infiltration of the law enforcement agencies by elements sympathetic to extreme right ideology and/or hostile to immigration. Such infiltration has its roots in Spain´s past (the fascist dictatorship), but it has never been addressed and has been allowed to continue to this day. Disturbingly, some members of the Spanish police, Civil Guard and army themselves have been implicated in a number of high-profile hate crimes, or their cover up.

    All these factors contribute to a fertile climate for hate crimes and impunity for perpetrators. As a result, the number of racially-motivated hate crimes in Spain continues to steadily rise, while reporting, investigating and especially sentencing lag behind.

    To read/download the text of the Pro Igual submission to the OSCE Hate Crimes Report 2011, please click here or visit our website: http://www.cidh.es/

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 2:02 pm on April 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Spain´s legal framework regarding hate crimes: obsolete and ineffective 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    According to some estimates, there are up to c.4000 hate crimes committed in Spain each year. However, the Spanish law fails to keep up with the scope and scale of those realities.

    The principal legislation used for prosecuting alleged hate crimes in Spain is the Penal Code adopted in 1995. Despite being progressive legislation for its time, it contains a number of serious shortcomings that compromise its effectiveness.

    Some examples:

    • There is no concept of “hate crimes” as such, which means the existing provisions, e.g. “prejudicial motive” in a crime, have to be stretched. This results in appeals and complaints of unconstitutionality and overbroad judicial interpretation, which in turn forces the courts to adopt very cautious interpretation of relevant provisions.
    • The clause of “provocation to hate” (Article 510 of the Penal Code) is vague and as a consequence is interpreted extremely narrowly: as provocation to a specific criminal act, against a concrete person/group, and the threat of violence must be “imminent” in order for a person making a “provocation” to be held responsible. The most recent example of such restrictive interpretation is found in a 2011 decision in a case concerning the distribution of anti-Roma brochures in the Badalona district of Barcelona.
    • Organizations lacking juridical personality do not fall under the scope of the Penal Code. This effectively exempts from responsibility the host of extremist neo-Nazi, neo-fascist and other ultra-right organizations (as happened for example in case of the infamous “Libreria Europe” in Barcelona) which are incidentally among the principal instigators of xenophobia. As of 2011, c.200 extreme right organizations were estimated to operate in Spain.
    • There is no clear definition of “weapons” in the Penal Code. Based on the established jurisprudence, the definition of a weapon is also rather restrictive: aside from fire arms, other “weapons” have to meet a host of criteria to be qualified as such. Media report that neo-Nazi gangs often attack their victims with baseball bats or using their heavy, metal-adorned boots, that is, objects that ordinarily are not regarded as weapons. And so they can effectively avoid charges of an “armed” assault under the law.

    The list of legal shortcomings could continue, but the point is clear: the Penal Code requires considerable revisions in order to be an effective tool for both sanctioning and dissuading hate crimes.

    Courts, however, are bound to apply the law that exists, not that should be. The sentences, few and far apart, have not been very convincing: usually suspended prison term, small fines or verbal admonitions. Application of racism/other bias as an aggravating motive of crimes has also been extremely limited, and as a consequence there is also an underestimated record of hate crimes within the judicial system. In addition, the Supreme Court has been criticized for failing to provide consistent judgments in order to establish clear juridical guidance for lower courts with regard to hate crimes.

    Therefore, even though there were some encouraging court decisions recently, for example, the dissolution of the neo-Nazi party Blood and Honor and of Hammerskin España, they are not enough to enforce the message that the Spanish state is taking hate crimes and their perpetrators seriously.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 3:35 pm on March 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Extreme right and the Spanish police and armed forces 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    This is a new article of the Pro Igual series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed throughout the series, Spain became home to considerable numbers of high-ranking Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution in Europe after the WWII. In addition, Spain at that time itself was a fascist dictatorship. Hence it is logical that there were rather cozy relations established between the fugitive Nazis and members of the Spanish armed forces and the police. However, even after Franco´s death, following the transition and the establishment of democracy in Spain, there has never been any critical review of this historic legacy. The result is that not only does Spain lack a sufficient legal framework to address racially-motivated violence and hate crimes, but the very institutions charged with protecting society from such crimes – the police and Civil Guard – may be not entirely immune from the presence of, or infiltration by neo-Nazi/pro-fascist elements.

    In 1995 none other than the then President Adolfo Suarez admitted in an interview on the Spanish television noted that there had been no purges in the Spanish power structures from the pro-fascist elements and the very idea of such purges seemed ludicrous. And so, old and neo-Nazis, former fascists and their sympathizers were allowed to remain or to join the Spanish police, Civil guard and the army, as well as serving in various private security firms with close links to the government structures.

    It is remarkable that one of the very first cases classified as hate crime against immigrants in Spain was committed by a member of the Civil Guard, in 1992. The victim was a harmless Dominican woman, Lucrecia Perez. Among the group of other immigrant women, utterly defenseless, she was attacked under the cover of the night and shot at by four masked men, whose leader was later identified as a member of the Civil Guard with close links to the local neo-Nazi gangs and a prior record of violent racism.

    In one of the Pro Igual´s earlier blog articles we briefly highlighted the role of the Spanish police in the international hunt for Dr. Death (Aribert Heim). Because of the tip-off from someone inside the Spanish police, Heim escaped and was never captured or found again, along with some other Nazi criminals who were able to change their location and avoid imminent arrests.

    More recently, in the course of the “Operation Armor” against a major neo-Nazi structure engaged in organized crime in Valencia – including trafficking of arms from the Spanish soldiers to neo-Nazis – criminal investigators complained about constant info leaks that impeded or sabotaged the operation, so that planned searches of the suspects´ premises had to be moved forward. One of the intercepted and recorded telephone conversations presented as evidence to the court sounded like this: “Listen, so-an-so from the Government delegation called me, they´re gonna search the headquarters in two days.” Members of the Civil Guard conducting investigation also reportedly stated that some of their own colleagues turned out to be neo-Nazi moles. See, http://borreruak.blogspot.com/2010/07/entrevista-con-joan-cantarero-autor-de.html. Despite this clear evidence of insider informants, there has been no separate investigation into infiltration by the neo-Nazis of the police, Civil Guard or even in this case of the Valencian regional government.

    Extreme right/neo-Nazi elements are reported to be a regular occurrence also in the Spanish armed forces. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq where soldiers from other NATO countries also participated, some Spanish soldiers were spotted wearing “mata moros” (“kill the moors”) pins which are traditionally associated with extreme right nationalistic organizations. Most recently, in Malaga, during the religious celebrations around Easter 2011, a swastika tattoo on the arm of an active-duty Spanish soldier caught attention of the media and caused considerable public resonance.

    Media on a regular basis report sightings of the members of the police, Civil Guard and the army – in their capacity as participants – at the pro-Nazi social events, such RAC music concerts, specific football fan gatherings, and the like.

    In recent years, a number of high-profile racially- or ideologically-motivated murders had been committed by extreme right-leaning members of the Spanish Civil Guard, the police, and the army:

    • In 2007, a Spanish soldier with links to neo-Nazis killed anti-fascist activist Carlos Palomino; the family of the victim reported sneers and mockery from the police throughout the investigation and court process.
    • In 2008, in the military quarters El Bruc, Barcelona, 10 masked Spanish soldiers beat up 3 soldiers of the immigrant background.
    • Meanwhile, the same year in Madrid, the police protected neo-Nazis holding a demonstration in a working district with large immigrant population, while battering anti-Nazi protesters; the police used batons and fire arms, at least three persons (anti-fascists) were wounded, one lost an eye, one woman was brutally stomped over by the police. Civil society activists claim it is typical that the police beat up anti-fascists but turn a blind eye to neo-Nazis, even if the latter are heavily armed, see: http://www.publico.es/espana/221064/la-policia-no-cachea-a-los-nazis-armados-en-las-manifestaciones.
    • In 2009, guards accused of particular brutality towards inmates in the infamous CIEs (Centros de Internamiento para Estranjeros) coincidentally also sported shaven heads and neo-Nazi tattoos or symbols, besides allegedly using ethnic and racial slurs characteristic of the extreme right´s jargon. (Pro Igual covered the situation in the Spanish CIEs in its past articles, see here and here.)
    • In the early 2012, the Valencian police brutally suppressed the demonstration of underage students, who were “armed” with books and protested budget cuts for education. What is interesting, in addition to Valencia being the preferred location for ex-Nazi fugitives, is that the chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right. See: chief of the police there does not even try to hide his sympathy towards the extreme right.

    These cases, especially taken in the context of Spanish history, are more than unrelated incidents. They suggest systematic infiltration of the power structures of the Spanish state by neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and other extreme right elements. If not for tireless efforts of the Spanish civil society, even a greater number of racially-motivated attacks and hate crimes committed by right-wing sympathizers serving in those organs would have remained covered up and forgotten.

    The next article of the series will address specifically Spanish civil society movement and initiatives developed to address and counter hate crimes and propaganda by the Spanish extreme right.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:37 pm on March 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anti-racism, , , , , , , ,   

    The extreme right scene in Spain. Part I: Neo-Nazis in Valencia 

    By Demetrio Gomez, CIDH Pro Igual

    This article is part of the series of blogs investigating the connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed in some of the previous articles, see here, many former Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution after the WWII had settled in Spain. Their principal destination was the Mediterranean Coast. In particular, Valencia has come to be one of the most prominent safe havens for the Nazi fugitives where they could not only continue living undisturbed, but also established strong connections and exerted an enormous influence on the extreme right ideology and organizations in Spain.

    The Nazi footprint

    Following a trial and conviction in absentia of Dr. Death (Aribert Heim) by the court of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Stuttgart police unit travelled to Spain where Heim was reportedly sighted. The investigators visited a small town of Denia, in Valencia. It is there that the whole German enclave was discovered, effectively sheltering dozens of former SS officials. (A detailed account of the Nazis settled in Spain is provided in Joan Cantarero´s book “La Huella de la Bota,” “The Bootprint.”)

    Picture a sunny Valencian town along the coast, a habitual vacation spot during the summer months. A scenic house surrounded by gardens and known, for as long as the residents could remember it, as “the German House.” In the garden, there was a stone barbecue grill ending in a vault and adorned with a swastika in a circle, poking macabre fun at the victims of the crematorium ovens. Presently, the house has been converted into a hotel; the barbecue is still there, although the swastika was removed.

    That house, also nicknamed “Fine House,” to honor its owner´s spouse Josefa Gallego, belonged to a former Nazi official Josef Janitscha. Along with the “Bremer’s Bungalows” and Gestapo quarters situated in the upper part of the town and overlooking the sea (often serving as a lighthouse to guide the boats and an interrogation and torture place for dissenting Nazis), the “Fine House” was part of the protection network for fugitive Nazi officials. Upon arrival, the Nazis usually spent some time at the Bungalows before relocating somewhere else.

    The Bremer´s apartments made up the most modern, the best illuminated and the best maintained area of the town, with stunning views of the sea. Its naturally sheltered location permitted the owners to carry out Nazi smuggling in total privacy. Bremer in turn had fully integrated himself into the life of the community, providing jobs for the local residents and even financing the municipal orchestra, so that every July 25 – on Bremer´s birthday – they played in his honor. According to one of the musicians invited to play at a private party held at the “Fine House” in 1979, all guests were dressed in the Nazi uniforms and the whole place was decorated with the same paraphernalia (as documented in the Cantarero´s book).

    And this all was taking place in the late 1970s, that is, already after the end of the Franco´s dictatorship and the adoption of the Spanish Constitution. Not only was there never any retribution for the Nazi criminals, but the Spanish authorities consistently rejected extradition requests by other countries governments. Moreover, owing to rather close connections between the former Nazis and the Spanish police forces at that time, the search for Nazi criminals had to be conducted with the uttermost discretion due to risk that someone at the police could tip off the Nazis about the direction of the search. Probably, this is what had happened during the international hunt for Heim, and despite the “imminent arrest” of “Dr. Gaussmann,” a Heim´s alias at that time, he managed to escape and never to be found again.

    The current landscape

    Judging by a cozy life of the ex-Nazis on the Levantine coast, it is hardly surprising that precisely there, in Valencia of all places, the extreme right organizations have proliferated the most, and the largest number of neo-Nazi attacks and aggressions have been reported. For the neo-Nazi brutes, these old criminals are epic heroes inspiring fanatical admiration and blind following.

    Thanks to important work of Spanish civil society organizations, some of the neo-Nazi extremists´ activities in had been documented and exposed. Thus, the Anti-Fascist Intelligence Group (Grupo de Inteligencia Antifascista or “GIA”) regularly published in the Valencia Weekly reports about right-wing attacks and helped obtain evidence and identify the perpetrators. These materials provide an important insight into quotidian workings of neo-Nazi leaders.

    For example, the GIA exposed the leader of the extreme right wing España 2000 party as a person planting a bomb at the Levante UD Stadium in 1976 on the eve of one of the first mass gatherings of the left. Jose Luis Roberto chaired the party at the same time as he served as the secretary General of the National Association of Local Entrepreneurs of Alterne (in Spanish “ANELA”). He is also the owner of a security firm Levantina de Seguridad notorious for its violent character and previously sued for forcing its workers to join the pro-fascist Falange Española party.

    During the term of Eduardo Zaplana as the President of the Autonomous Community of Valencia and subsequently as the Labor Minister, the firm reached its highest point. It was contracted to oversee security of public buildings and got cash injection of at least 3mln euro. The firm, that by the way sells Nazi souvenirs on its website, was highly praised by the Valencian police chief, Antonio Moreno Piquer, who does not make a secret of his sympathy for España 2000 and who also was behind the latest acts of police brutality against minors during the 2012 student demonstrations in Valencia.

    In addition to these legal and visible organizations, there are also numerous “dark horses” camouflaging under other political orientations and imparting their ideology of hatred in a less conspicuous manner. Environmentalism is one of the most common covers. For example, the Environmental Thought and Action (in Spanish “Pensamiento y Acción Ecologista” or “PAE”) was formed by militants of the ultra-right organization National Alliance. Meetings and conferences of the infamous Library Europa, banished from convening at any of the nearby hotels and conference centers, regularly take place at the PAE headquarters.

    The extreme right elements have managed to infiltrate even some of the workers´ organizations and labor unions, attempting to inculcate the rejection of foreigners and immigration because allegedly “migrants steal jobs from the Spanish.” In 2010, there was a major conflict in the General Labor Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo or CGT) leading to the expulsion of the right-wing elements and a statement from the organization that the CGT rejects xenophobic ideology.

    There are also ongoing attempts from the pro-fascist/neo-Nazi forces to take political office and have a greater influence on the political life in Spain. For example, Pedro José Cuevas Silvestre, aka “El Ventosa,” was convicted of the brutal murder of anti-fascist activist Guillem Agulló. Cuevas merely served 4 out of 14 years of his prison term. Leaving jail without a trace of remorse, this convicted criminal had no difficulties whatsoever in pursuing a career in politics. His name appeared on the list of the Chiva municipal elections in 2007 (in Segovia) as a candidate of the ultra-right National Alliance.

    Last but not least major neo-Nazi organization in Valencia, uncovered as a result of the Operation Panzer in 2005, is the Front Against the System (Frente Antisistema or FAS). It is a for-profit organization implicated in numerous cases of robbery, violent assaults on immigrants, arms trafficking (in conspiracy with the members of the Spanish military), and other illicit activities. The organization is headed by a known Valencian businessman, Juan Manuel Soria, who by the way also is the head of the aforementioned PAE and a member of the National Alliance.

    In conclusion, the large influx of the fugitive Nazi criminals after the WWII has certainly helped turn Valencia into one of the major bastions of the extreme right movement in Spain. If not for civil society initiatives, such as the Platform Against Impunity (Plataforma Contra la Impunidad) among others, the extreme right/neo-Nazi activism most likely would have been left without repercussions in Valencia, as happened in so many other Spanish localities. The more detailed account of the civil society initiatives to counter the neo-Nazi threat will be offered in the subsequent articles.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 10:29 pm on March 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anti-racism, , , , , , , , , , ,   

    The extreme right scene in Spain. Part I: Neo-Nazis in Malaga 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual 

    This article is part of the series of blogs investigating connection between the neo-Nazi movement and hate crimes in Spain.

    As discussed in the earlier articles of this series (see here and here), many high-ranking Nazis fleeing criminal prosecution after the WWII found a safe refuge and a new home on the Spanish shores. Malaga was one of the most important destinations for Nazi fugitives.

    In Marbella (the province of Malaga), Nazis enjoyed personal support and protection of Honorary Consul Hans Hoffmann, a former Gestapo official and a suspected Nazi spy. “Juanito Hoffmann,” the nickname under which he was known around, owned vast amounts of land which he used during one of the past Spanish property booms to amass a great fortune. Remarkably, decades later, the Hoffmann´s son – a lawyer and legal administrator of various companies – would be one of the major figures implicated in the Marbella corruption case.

    The Hoffmann´s empire provided a safety net to hundreds of fugitive Nazis, including notorious Leon Degrelle and Otto Ernst Remmer who lived undisturbed in Spain until their natural deaths. Another high-profile Nazi and Holocaust denier finding a safe haven in Malaga was Gerd Honsik. He was arrested only in 2007 after the previous request for his extradition to Austria, in 1995, was rejected on grounds of possible “double jeopardy” (sic).

    That cozy existence under the Spanish sun was interrupted by the international hunt for Dr. Death (Aribert Heim), which uncovered scores of the former Nazis hiding in Spain. By then the damage had been done: the decades of unfettered influence from the “old guard” turned Malaga, along with select other areas, into a fertile breeding ground for neo-Nazis and extreme right groups of all sorts.

    According to a Spanish Daily Malaga Today (Malagahoy.es), citing the police officials, growing numbers of young people have been joining neo-Nazi ranks in that Andalusian province in recent years. The largest concentrations are estimated in the poorer working class neighborhoods of Carretera de Cadiz and Nueva Malaga. In addition, Fuengirola in the province of Malaga is considered the skinhead “hard nucleus” and one of the preferred hangouts for neo-Nazi leaders from all over the country.

    They (the youth – Pro Igual) are genuinely brainwashed; it starts with the adoption of philosophy of total nullity of one´s own personality … and continues with the distribution of pamphlets and literature about past Nazi leaders, and even conferences with the former officials of the Third Reich who had settled in the Costa del Sol (Malaga).

    However, according to the UJCE:

    the presence of the extreme right is not limited to organized groups demonstrating around the city, but even at the University there is a notable increase of proponents of (the Nazi) ideology who insult and bully students belonging to the left-leaning associations.

    In 2011, the Malaga section of the Communist Party (PCA) complained of the ongoing harassment and even physical attacks on its members by neo-Nazi groups. The PCA in addition claimed that the police did not always adequately respond to the neo-Nazi demonstrations and assaults on opponents. Here is a video, courtesy of Alerta 112, which shows a striking contrast between a timid and pacifist attitude of the police vis-a-vis an aggressive and unapologetic behavior of the skinheads.

    Particular notoriety was gained by a row between the neo-Nazis and leftist youths that took place during the Feria de Malaga (an annual Spring festival) in 2011. Following the demonstration of the National Alliance (an extreme right organization), about 40 skinheads carrying neo-Nazi attributes surrounded the PCA office in an attempt to provoke a fight. Fortunately, violence was averted by the prompt arrival of the police. However, captured on video, the row shows how easily combustible the situation is, with tensions running high among the extremist youths. Against the background of an ongoing economic crisis gripping Spain and leaving nearly half of the young people aged 18-25 jobless and hopeless, such incidents are disturbingly reminiscent of the Germany of the late 1920s.

    Continuing with the series, in the following weeks we will publish articles probing the neo-Nazi scene in other Spanish regions: Valencia and Madrid. 

     

     
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