119. The Committee considered the third periodic report of Spain (CAT/C/34/Add.7) at its 311th, 312th and 313th meetings, on 18 and 19 November 1997 (CAT/C/SR.311, 312 and 313), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.
120. Spain ratified the Convention against Torture on 10 October 1987 and made the declarations under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention. Spain has also been a party to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture since 1989.
121. The third periodic report was submitted within the time limit and was prepared in accordance with the Committee’s guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports.
122. The Committee welcomes the presence of a large and qualified delegation to present the report as an indication of the Spanish Government’s desire to cooperate with the Committee in the discharge of the functions entrusted to it under the Convention and thanks the State party for its explicit recognition of the work of the Committee.
123. The Committee welcomes with satisfaction the very detailed report, which was amplified and updated orally, and the additional information provided by the delegation in replying to questions and comments in the course of a frank and constructive dialogue.
2. Positive aspects
124. Spain has incorporated the offence of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment into its domestic legislation in terms which not only conform to the definition in article 1 of the Convention, but also expand on it in certain important respects, thus providing its citizens with greater protection against such unlawful acts; the penalties laid down in the new legislation are commensurate with the gravity of the offences, as prescribed in article 4 of the Convention.
125. The Committee stresses the special importance of the final abolition of the death penalty.
126. In addition to the special legal provisions, the provisions of the Penal Code strengthen protection against torture, especially the provisions of the chapter on acts by State officials which infringe constitutional guarantees. The Committee is confident that the faithful and strict observance of these provisions will have the desired preventive and deterrent effects.
3. Factors and difficulties impeding the application of the Convention
127. According to information provided to the Committee, judicial proceedings instituted following complaints of acts of torture, at both the pre-trial and trial stages, are often of a duration which is completely incompatible with the promptness required by article 13 of the Convention. The Committee has heard of cases in which sentences were pronounced up to 15 years after the events in question.
128. The sentences imposed on public officials accused of acts of torture, which frequently involve token penalties not even entailing a period of imprisonment, seem to indicate a degree of indulgence which deprives the criminal penalty of the deterrent and exemplary effect that it should have and is also an obstacle to the genuine elimination of the practice of torture. The Committee is confident that the severity of the penalties, which has been increased in the new legislation, will help to remedy this shortcoming.
4. Subjects of concern
129. The Committee continued to receive frequent complaints of acts of torture and ill-treatment during the period covered by the report.
130. The Committee also received information of many cases of ill-treatment which appear to constitute manifestations of racial discrimination.
131. Notwithstanding the legal guarantees as to the conditions under which it can be imposed, there are cases of prolonged detention incommunicado, when the detainee cannot receive the assistance of a lawyer of his choice, which seems to facilitate the practice of torture. Most of these complaints concern torture inflicted during such periods.
132. The Committee is also concerned about reports that although, in accordance with article 15 of the Convention, judges do not accept as incriminating evidence statements regarded as invalid because they have been obtained under duress or torture, they nevertheless accept those same statements as incriminating other co-defendants.
133. The competent authorities should take the necessary measures to eliminate problems related to the excessive length of investigations into complaints of torture and ill-treatment.
134. State officials or agents responsible for conducting criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and society should use all available procedural means for the effective and exemplary punishment of acts of torture, rather than leave that responsibility to be discharged solely through the actions of those who have suffered direct and personal injury.
135. Consideration should be given to eliminating instances in which extended detention incommunicado and restrictions of the rights of detainees to be assisted by a defence lawyer of their choice are authorized.
136. The Committee calls upon the authorities of the State party to institute procedures for the automatic investigation of any case of torture or ill-treatment brought to their attention by any means whatsoever, even when the victims do not lodge complaints through the prescribed legal channels.