Case 10

Alleged injuries suffered by Spanish police officers during the self-determination referendum.

The Spanish Interior Minister increased the official number of police agents injured from 39 to 431 during Catalonia's self-determination referendum.

THE SPANISH INTERIOR MINISTER INCREASED THE OFFICIAL NUMBER OF POLICE AGENTS INJURED FROM 39 TO 431 DURING THE CATALAN REFERENDUM.

Description

A big number of anti-riot police officers was deployed to Catalonia by land and by sea (more than 5,000 according to official data from Spanish Government) to prevent de Catalan Independence Referendum from happening. After the police intervention on the 1 October Referendum in Catalonia and as the number of citizens injured by police charges (1,066 people) was becoming known, Mr. Juan Ignacio Zoido Álvarez, then Interior Minister, stated that according to official sources from the same Ministry, the number of injured agents was 431. Before those statements, official data had estimated that the injured police officers had been 39.

 

When analysing the medical reports of each officer provided by the Ministry of the Interior it is established that 26 out of the 39 injured officers had bruises, sprains or strains in fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, or knees. That is, injuries that could be the outcome of their own actions during disproportionately violent police charges (as siuggested by the specialized work of José Antonio Lorente Acosta, and Lucas González Herrera: Estudio Multidisciplinar de la Operativa y del Uso de la Fuerza Policial, “contusiones y lesiones por actuaciones de las fuerzas del orden público” pp. 119-125. Regarding the other 13 officers, one of them did not include a medical report and another one had a scratch on his nasal septum. The others, minor bruises on thighs or faces.

It has to be said that the 39 injured officers took part in the police charges which generated the highest number of injured citizens. The allegedly injured officers charged in the following “schools” (polling stations): “Estel” (2 officers affected), “CAP Guinardó” (1 officer affected), “Ramon Llull” (6 officers affected), “Ausiàs March” (1 officer affected), “Mediterrània” (2 officers affected), “Santa Catalina de Siena” (1 officer affected), “Pies Sant Antoni” (4 officers affected), “Escola Oficial d’Idiomes” (1 officer affected), “Prosperitat” (2 officers affected), “Jaume Balmes” (1 officer affected), “Joan Fuster” (2 officers affected) and “Pau Claris” (1 officer affected) [1]. All these polling stations coincide with the places where a majority of citizens have reported injuries suffered due to the police operation. To sum-up: those 39 police officers supposedly injured performed at the schools where there is evidence of a disproportionate use of force by the police.

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Image from: ABC.es

Before

The change in the figure of -allegedly- injured agents took place when it was being known that there were already more than 800 injured citizens during the Spanish police charges (according to official data from Catalonia’s National health Institute, they were 1,066 recorded between the days 1 and 4 October) even though, the official data provided by the same Ministry of the Interior before the first-instance criminal court No. 7 of Barcelona maintained the first figure: 39.

The outcome

As a result of the police actions on 1 October, many injured citizens lodged complaints against the facts. In Barcelona, the first-instance criminal court No. 7 opened an investigation to determine if the police actions involved a criminal offence. The judge requested the Home Ministry a report describing in detail the actions of the police forces deployed to Barcelona.

 

That report, with more than 200 pages, had the official and final list of injured police officers during the action: 39. Together with that list there were also medical reports of most of the police officers. All of them had minor injuries. In some cases, instead of the medical report there was a handwritten letter by the superior of the concerned officer turned in. That letter explained which injuries the officer had and how they had occurred.

As the result of various lawyers associations’ actions to hold those accountable for police violence during the 1st of October, the Investigating judge in Barcelona has summoned on the 5fth September 2018 two police officers whose actions he described “to say the least as indiscriminated and disproportionate”. Other agents are being summoned to the courts as citizens are lodging their complaints through various victims and lawyers associations.  

Violated rights

Fundamental rights cannot yield to the enforcement of a court order. However, in this case, the court order that prohibited the celebration of the referendum specified that the operations held by the security forces shall be subject to “the maintenance of the social harmony”.

 

On the other side, International Human Rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, complained that excess police force had taken place on the date of the referendum. Today, It remains yet to be determined by a court of law as to whether the actions of the police agents were disproportionate.

The police action of 1st October 2017 constitutes a violation of several fundamental rights: the right to physical integrity, article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; the right to political participation, article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the right to self-determination protected by Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

 

References

About building hate: a State action against Catalonia (in Catalan):

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/cronica-de-la-construccio-de-lodi-una-operacio-destat-contra-catalunya/

About gatherings cheering Spanish police forces going to Catalonia to avoid the referendum of 1 October (in Catalan).

http://www.regio7.cat/arreu-catalunya-espanya-mon/2017/09/27/guardia-civil-crits-por-ellos/435840.html

About Mr. Roger Español losing an eye because of a rubber bullet (in Catalan).

http://elmon.cat/politica/lhome-que-perdre-visio-dun-ull-l1-vull-lultim-ferit-bala-goma 

Association set up to demand responsibilities for the injured during the 1 October (in Catalan):

http://unilateral.cat/2017/12/19/afectats-1-o-neix-una-associacio-per-exigir-responsabilitats-de-lu-doctubre/

Spanish Minister of Justice makes fun about the injuries caused during the 1 October referendum (in Catalan):

https://www.elnacional.cat/en/news/spanish-justice-minister-jokes-injuries-catalan-referendum_214971_102.html

1 October victims take the police violence to European Parliament (in Catalan):

http://www.rac1.cat/info-rac1/20180201/44449231186/les-victimes-de-l1-o-denuncien-al-parlament-europeu-la-violencia-policial.html   

Images of police violence at peaceful polling stations:

www.catmemories.org

A judge summons two police officers for disproportionate use of force during the Referendum (in Spanish):

https://www.eldiario.es/catalunya/politica/imputa-policias-aporrear-patadas-votante_0_791621336.html

A judge summons as investigated persons two “Policía Nacional” officers at a 1st October Referendum polling station (in Catalan):

 http://iridia.cat/un-jutge-cita-a-declarar-en-qualitat-dinvestigats-dos-policies-nacionals-per-les-carregues-a-lescola-mediterrania-de-l1-doctubre/

 
Human Rights Watch denounces “excessive use of force” during the 1-O’s referendum (in Catalan):

https://www.elpuntavui.cat/politica/article/17-politica/1259137-human-rights-watch-denuncia-l-us-excessiu-de-la-forca-l-1-o.html

Amnesty International denounces excessive use of force by National Police and Civil Guards in Catalonia (in Catalan):

http://www.amnistiacatalunya.org/en-que-treballem/noticies-dactualitat/noticies-dactualitat/articulo/1-o-amnistia-internacional-denuncia-us-excessiu-de-la-forca-per-part-de-policia-nacional-i-guard/

Documents

Statement by the Council of Official Catalan Medical Colleges (in Catalan)

https://www.comb.cat/cat/actualitat/noticies/noticies_fitxa.aspx?Id=paolJ%2F7syq7DWLn9lniZZA%3D%3D

Writ of the court case filed by the Catalan Government against the actions of “Policía Nacional” and “Guardia Civil” during the 1 October 2017:

https://www.ara.cat/2017/10/06/INSTRUCCIO_7-_auto_obertura_diligencies.pdf?hash=fd37bcc570f65c31872f6be94c10507aae962af0

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