March 4. 2024. 7:25

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Spain’s controversial ‘Gag Law’ reform is doomed to fail


The reform of the controversial Citizen Security Law known as the “Gag Law” will likely be delivered a blow in the parliamentary committee as the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties oppose part of the reform that would allow for anti-riot police to use rubber balls.

In 2015, the government led by right-wing Partido Popular (EPP) enacted the Gag Law to counter the social unrest and protests against its austerity measures.

The law has since been dubbed as a “direct threat to the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in Spain” by Human Rights Watch and as “a multi-pronged attack on a raft of rights” by Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe.

The law “brings back memories of the worst days of Franco’s regime [1939-1975 dictatorship] and is not appropriate in a democratic nation,” the New York Times said about the law at the time.

Attempts to reform the law have been made by the current leftist coalition of PSOE (S&D) and Podemos (The Left) since they came to power, though disagreement with Catalan and Basque nationalist parties ERC (EFA) and EH Bildu (The Left) have repeatedly stalled negotiations last year.

While the government’s proposed amendments are set to be voted upon on Tuesday in the Commission of Interior and will be sent to a plenary session for official adoption if approved, all efforts seem doomed to fail as ERC and EH Bildu – parties relied on by the government to pass the reform – publicly announced they would vote against the proposed amendments, EL PAÍS reports.

Disrespect for authority, disobedience and resistance, anti-riot equipment, and expulsions of irregular migrants are the four main points of contention between the governing coalition and the coalition allies (Catalan nationalist ERC and Junts, and Basque nationalists EH Bildu and PNV).

After months of negotiations, the parties managed to reach a consensus on 50 amendments, addressing 98% of the current law text. Only three articles are still being debated.

“It would be very sad to endure another four years with this law for two or three issues that have been left pending”, Enrique Santiago, spokesperson for Izquierda Unida’s (The Left) has said.

The biggest bone of contention, however, involves the use of rubber balls by anti-riot forces – a sticking point that made ERC and EH Bildu block the reform.

“ERC cannot assume the reform of a law that falls short; we are not going to endorse what here, 10 years ago we banned [in reference to rubber balls, which have been banned in Catalonia since 2013]…” the ERC’s spokesperson, Mata Vilalta also said.

The coalition government has made it clear from the start of negotiations that rubber balls are a red line and are unwilling to discuss them.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)