Proposed amendments to the Spanish criminal code that would expand the range of crimes defined as “terrorism” to include vague language and overly broad categories of offences would infringe people’s basic human rights, said Amnesty International ahead of a parliamentary debate today.
“The proposed definition of terrorism includes so many crimes that it is rendered virtually meaningless. The parliament should reject any proposals that would violate basic rights,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.
“It would seem that anything from certain forms of expression and association to hacking and travelling could be labelled and prosecuted as terrorism. The suggested definition is overly broad and some elements so vague that even a seasoned lawyer would have trouble knowing for certain what would constitute a terrorist act.”
“What Spain needs to fight terrorism is the exact opposite: an exact and legally precise definition of what crimes constitute ‘terrorism’.” And any new measures must be necessary and proportionate to the actual threat.”
The proposed amendments, if adopted, could threaten the rights to freedom of expression and association, the presumption of innocence, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, and the right to leave and return to one’s country.
“In the aftermath of the Paris attacks and stepped up counter-terrorism initiatives across Europe, governments must remain vigilant to ensure that their efforts to thwart future attacks do not come at the expense of human rights,” said Julia Hall.
“Respecting human rights is essential to maintaining security and not an obstacle to keeping people safe.”
Among the numerous amendments up for debate is an expansion of the definition of terrorism to include acts such as “disruption” of public order; “resistance” against public authorities and “reckless”, including unwittingly supporting a terrorist enterprise.
One new proposal would outlaw travelling, or planning to travel, outside Spain to collaborate with militant groups or to train with them, even if no such training occurs or no so-called terrorist act is committed. Information sharing, including from foreign intelligence services, raises the prospect of evidence extracted under torture being shared and used for intelligence purposes.
Making a statement on social media that could be perceived as inciting others to commit violent attacks would now also be outlawed in Spain, even if the statement could not be directly linked to an act of violence.
The penalties associated with the already existing offence of “justification” of terrorism, which includes the “humiliation” of victims of terrorism or their families, would be increased. Aggravating circumstances would include dissemination of messages across the Internet or through the media.
Image: Freedom of Expression © Amnesty International