What is the ‘gag law’ and why has its reform raised opposition from police sectors in Spain?

This week begins in the Spanish Congress of Deputies the debate to carry out the reform of the Citizen Security Law, known as the ‘Gag Law’, which was approved by the conservative Popular Party (PP) alone in 2015, when it held the absolute majority of the House.

Since its approval, it has been a widely criticized standard on the grounds that limits fundamental rights, criminalizes protest and that it had been decreed to limit, precisely, the new forms of discontent that began to emerge after the outbreak of the 2008 economic crisis and the emergence of the 15M movement.

Its repeal was one of the electoral promises of Pedro Sánchez before reaching the Presidency of the Government and one of the demands of its Government partner, United We Can (UP).

Now the main detractors of the reform are the most conservative police unions, a position that has been taken up by the extreme right of the Vox party and by the other two right-wing national formations, the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, in their partisan struggle.

What are the main changes included in the reform of the Gag Law?

This law has resulted in the issuance of more than 1.3 million financial penalties. Some fines that can be really high, sanctioning with between 30,000 and 600,000 euros, for example, holding an unreported demonstration if it poses a risk to people, refusing to dissolve one, or disturbing public order.

The punishment of other actions, such as the disrespect to members of the security forces and bodies in the exercise of their functions, which carries a fine of between 100 and 600 euros imposed only at the discretion of the reporting agent himself.

It is criticized that this law gives a presumption of veracity to the testimony of the agents of the authority, unless there is evidence to the contrary. against the presumption of innocence of the citizen. In addition, the evidence to contradict the officials’ account is difficult to obtain, since the same regulations prohibit recording the agents in the exercise of their functions.

The changes being debated in the Hemicycle this week, and expected to be approved, include the decriminalization of spontaneous demonstrations in certain cases and that the sanctions take into account the individual economic capacity of each person.

In addition, the detention time of those who refuse to identify themselves will be reduced from the current maximum of 6 hours to 2 hours -except in exceptional cases-, and a nuance is included regarding the presumption of veracity of the police reports, which to be considered thus they must be consistent, logical and reasonable.

Other changes

Other changes that will be discussed over the next few days are as follows:

  • Record the agents:

In current regulations, “the unauthorized use of images or personal or professional data of authorities or members of the Security Forces and Bodies that could endanger the personal or family safety of the agents, of the protected facilities or the success of an operation at risk “, which has led to many agents directly prevent the taking of images.

From now on, if the reform goes ahead, “the mere taking of images in places of public transit and demonstrations, or their mere dissemination, will not constitute an offense,” although it will, as up to now, if agents are endangered. or their families.

  • Body search:

The amendments presented by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and UP also include a modification of article 20, which will go on to indicate that external body searches must be “rationally and objectively grounded”Not like now, that it is only necessary that there be “rational indications” that “relevant” instruments or effects can be found. In addition, the principles of “equal treatment and non-discrimination”.

  • Riot gear:

To restore citizen security in demonstrations, it is necessary to intervene by clearly warning verbally and using “always the means less harmful to people and avoiding those that cause irreparable injuries “.

This point is understood as an allusion to the use of rubber balls that have already caused many citizens to lose an eye due to their impact.

Opposition from police unions

Just before the start of this parliamentary debate, this Saturday a demonstration called in Madrid by the most hegemonic sector and ideologically located to the right of the Police was held, which was attended mainly by members of the National Police and the Guard Civil.

According to Jusapol (Police Salarial Justice), one of the associations that convened the march, the reform of the Citizen Security Law constitutes an attack by the Government on police and civil guards, which “leaves the agents of the Security Forces and Bodies in benefit criminals and violent protesters“, as stated by its president, Miguel Ángel Gómez, in statements collected by Europa Press.

The criticisms, and specifically the demonstration last weekend, were joined by the most conservative forces of Parliament, Vox, the Popular Party and Citizens, whose representatives participated in the protest.

Proclamations against this reform, such as that it unprotects citizens and protects criminals, or that it leaves policemen sold, collide with the latest known crime data, which reflects that crime in Spain is at historic lows, with only 39 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants.

Thus, during the first nine months of the year there have been 11.2% fewer homicides and murders and 5.5% fewer robberies with force. One of the few crimes that have increased have been sexual assaults (30% more), which the Ministry of the Interior explains that it is because the active policies carried out have led to a greater disposition of the victims of these crimes to report, thus reducing the levels of underreporting.

Compared to 2019, the year immediately prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures it entailed, such as the confinement of the entire population, crime has dropped by 13.6%.

With these data on the table, it is expected that the majority of the Congress of Deputies will support the reform, with the exception of the three political forces that have supported this Saturday’s demonstration.

Nuria Lopez

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