Spain’s third review under the UPR has taken place amid increasing concerns over the situation of freedom of expression in the country. Just last month, the Supreme Court convicted rapper Pablo Hásel to nine months and one day in prison and a large pecuniary fine for glorification of terrorism and insult to the Crown which still constitute criminal offences under the Spanish Penal Code. Furthermore, the Coronavirus crisis that has sadly invested Spain in the past four months shows the deficiencies of the Law for the Protection of National Security. This law has been in place and enforced for the past 5 years and has been increasingly used in over a million proposed sanctions during the recent state of emergency, most of them on the grounds of “disobedience to the authority” or “lack of respect or consideration” against the authority.
We welcome that the Government of Spain accepted various recommendations to reform speech related offences in the Penal Code and in the Law for the Protection of National Security, and align them with international human rights standards. However, we remain deeply concerned that Spain has explicitly not accepted two recommendations to decriminalize defamation (Luxembourg and Maldives). We strongly urge the government to revise its position, fully decriminalize defamation offences and replace them by appropriate civil remedies. No heightened defamation protection should be provided to public officials and institutions, including the royal family.
The coalition also urges the Spanish government to expeditiously reform key provisions in the Penal Code currently used to restrict freedom of expression in the country. We advocate for the repeal of criminal offence of “glorification of terrorism” and of provisions providing protection from insult to religions and religious feelings. We also call for the revision of offences on “incitement to terrorism” to make clear that this requires showing the intent and the likelihood that such acts may incite to violence. “Hate speech” offences should be repealed: the advocacy of discriminatory hatred which constitutes incitement to hostility, discrimination, or violence should be prohibited in line with the ICCPR.
The coalition also reiterates the urgent need to reform the Law for the Protection of National Security and replace it with new legislation in line with international standards on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and protest. The reform of the Law on Transparency in compliance with international human rights standards must a priority: without information, there is no freedom of expression. We urge the Spanish government to be accountable to the promises that it made in its political manifesto.
We reiterate the need for Spain to establish a dialogue with civil society in the framework of the implementation of the UPR recommendations, which regrettably was suspended due to the Coronavirus emergency. In this context, the UPR recommendations related to freedom of expression and information are today even more important to be adopted to reinforce freedom and democracy in Spain.