Draft Citizen Security Law unconstitutional, says top legal watchdog

A report by two members of CGPJ says criteria used in draft law “too broad”

Several points of the government's draft Citizens Security Law are unconstitutional and should be stricken from the legislation, according to Spain’s legal watchdog, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ).

The controversial bill includes fines of up to 30,000 euros for things like ignoring a police officer’s instructions and “offenses against Spain,” such as shouting or carrying signs “that are harmful or abusive to Spain or any region” during a protest. It also focuses heavily on breaking up street protests, and vests private security guards with the power to help the police in this task.

But a report by two members of the CGPJ (one of whom is progressive, and the other conservative) considers that the bill uses criteria that are “too broad” to justify police intervention in street marches. The CGPJ also argues that private security guards should not be allowed to assist with the breaking up of demonstrations.

Critics of the bill say that the center-right government of the Popular Party (PP) is looking to protect itself from growing social protests on the streets over corruption and the economic crisis. The text is often popularly referred to as “the Gag Law.”

“It is pure reactionary, conservative nonsense aimed at criminalizing protests and criticism in the streets,” said Joan Queralt, a criminal law professor in Barcelona, in statements made last November, when details of the bill emerged. Other experts have described it as “unnecessary.”

Now, the CGPJ report underscores the “questionable constitutionality” of arresting people for administrative offenses, letting private security guards detain suspects, or holding organizers responsible for what happens during a street protest. It also doubts whether it is legal to sanction “escraches,” a type of protest held outside the home of workplace of a politician with the goal of shaming him or her. Members of the ruling PP were the subject of several escraches last year, mostly over home evictions.

 An October survey by the Center for Sociological Studies found that insecurity ranked 13th on the list of Spaniards’ top concerns, far below unemployment, corruption and the economy.