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Pardon Granted to Police Officers Convicted of Torture in Spain

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

On July 27, 2006, Romanian citizen Lucian Paduraru and his pregnant wife left their Barcelona home when five men approached the couple and attacked Paduraru, beating him viciously. The five men were members of the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra [en], but never identified themselves to the couple. The officers had mistaken Paduraru for a notoriously dangerous mugger.

Paduraru was arrested and taken to the police station in Les Corts where the beating not only continued, but worsened to include threats, insults, and even inserting the barrel of a gun into his mouth.  It was only when one of the mossos realized security cameras monitored the room that the beating stoped. The tragedy turned graver still with the realization that Paduraru is a hemophiliac. This case served as one of the examples in Amnesty International's Spain: Adding insult to injury [en] report about police violence in Spain.

Las cámaras de la comisaría de Les Corts captan a unos 'mossos' golpeando a un detenido. Foto del blog «Chorizos ibéricos»

Cameras capture the mossos beating a detainee in the Les Corts police station. Photo from the blog «Chorizos ibéricos»

The five mossos faced charges of torture, personal injury and illegal detention and were tried in Barcelona's main court. Three officers received a six year and seven month sentence each, one received a two year and three month sentence and the fifth received only a fine for abuse. In an appeal to the Supreme Court, the sentences were reduced and granted a suspension pending the final outcome of the police investigation for the pardon the mossos requested.

In February 2012, the government granted the first pardon claiming “subsequent police investigations” provided “new and valuable information in relation to the facts of the case.”  They also took into account the officers’ personal records with the department as well as “the mounting support and general backing for the pardon.” The pardon further reduced the prison times, to two years, which coupled with their lack of prior offenses exempted the officers from their return to prison. In addition, their banning from public office was also substituted for a two year suspension.

In spite of this, the Court made the unusual mandate that the officers fulfill their prison time, citing social outrage and the threat the officers posed to society. In response, the mossos filed their second appeal.

Yet a few days ago, the Spanish government, ignoring public opinion, granted the officers’ second appeal, commuting their prison time to a mere fine of 7,200 euros (roughly $9,350) to be paid 10 euro “installments” over two years.

This secondary pardon has enraged the public, who has widely interpreted the government's action as a clear siding with the impunity and brutality that blatantly violated fundamental human rights. On Twitter, the hashtags #indulto [pardon] and #justiciadeespaña [justice in Spain] became the trending topics the afternoon of the announcement. Abraham Escobar of #14N and Gloria Marcos shared their indignation:

@abraham_escobar: The mossos' pardon is disgraceful. This political system is broken. Injustice is legalized and impunity rewarded.

@gloriamarcosmar: Gano Ping freed, torturers pardoned, the #PP [Popular Party] promotes police brutality. What country do we live in? #JusticiaDeEspaña

Ricardo Sixto criticized the Ministry of Justice's recent initiatives:

@Rsixtoiglesias: Spain: it pardons torturers and uses fines as a means of justice. There is no rule of law. http://www.publico.es/espana/446355/

This pardon sheds light on the reality of what has been happening for years. Spaniards are beginning to realize that the pardon, a mechanism intended to humanize justice, has been used extensively by the government to overturn the sentences of offenders in close proximity to power. Ignacio Escobar explains as much in his article “The pardon: A daily abuse of power“:

[…] we are one of the Western countries whose government abuses most this arbitrary prerogative. Since 1977 we have granted 17,620 pardons, according to the BOE [State Official Bulletin, en].  Among those pardoned are the best of each house: the leaders of the 23-F coup [coup of February 23, 1981, en], the GAL terrorists [Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación, en], corrupt politicians, depraved judges, big businesses, fraudulent bankers, drug traffickers… This averages to 480 each year.

Zapatero granted 3,226 during his two years while Aznar —national record holder— nearly doubled this number with 5,916 pardons. By comparison, George W. Bush granted only 200 pardons in eight years in the United States, a country seven times the size of Spain [...]

Nearly 200 judges united to sign a declaration of dissent against the mossos‘ pardon. The following are excerpts from the press release:

A pardon assumes an act in violation of human dignity whose responsibility in the persecution of said acts of torture falls on the State or the hands of its agents.

[…]

Torture is one of the worst possible ways in which human dignity is violated.  This dignity is the foundation of a constitutional order. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Spain for not investigating these acts. [...] When the [Ministry of] Justice acts, investigates and condemns, the Government pardons. It then becomes challenging to explain such behavior before the European Court.

[…]

The Government's decision is unbecoming of a democratic system of law, illegitimate, and ethically unaffordable.

The Minister of Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, defended the Government's decision:

Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, Ministro de Justicia español. Captura de un vídeo de YouTube.

Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, Spanish Justice Minister. Taken from a YouTube video.

[…] what cannot prevail is the belief that other powers can assume certain faculties that are not theirs just because the constitution grants them to the state of Spain; the pardon is not a right of the judiciary but a faculty of the executive power.

But there is still hope that this pardon will count for something, as Ixaiac writes in a Huffington Post article:

Yesterday the SUP [Unified Police Union], today 200 judges. Maybe something is changing. But for most, the change comes too late. Hopefully more and more eyes are being opened to the constant abuse of power. Let's waste no time in restoring justice to our society.

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

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