Interior Ministry to change parts of controversial Citizens Safety Law

State agencies and political parties say many items of proposed law are unconstitutional

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Faced with charges of unconstitutionality from judges and lawyers, the Interior Minister will modify several aspects of its controversial Citizens Safety Law, sources briefed on the matter said.

“We will change all the affected articles so there is no doubt about their constitutionality,” the same sources added.

The Citizens Safety Law, known popularly as the Fernández Law after Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz, has been criticized by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Spain’s legal watchdog and by the Attorney Council, among other state bodies.

Introduced in November, the bill included fines of up to 30,000 euros for actions such as shouting slogans or carrying signs “that are harmful or abusive to Spain or any region” during a protest. It also focused heavily on breaking up street demonstrations, and awarded private security guards powers to help the police in this task.

Critics say the bill seems tailor-made to quell citizen protests against the Popular Party government

Critics say the legislation seems tailor-made for the Popular Party (PP) government to quell public displays of discontent over its handling of the economic crisis and the corruption cases that have been surfacing.

As soon as the bill was first presented, opposition parties, legal associations and a number of social groups attacked it on the grounds that it clearly curtailed civil liberties. Joan Coscubiela, a deputy and spokesman for the Plural Left group in Congress, called it “a kick in the teeth of democracy.”

The avalanche of criticism pushed the government to make a few small changes in November, but the essence of the bill remained untouched, and retained the awarding of harsh fines with no legal oversight, which are more expensive to appeal.

Minister Fernández said he was “open to all kinds of suggestions” from the State Council (which has yet to issue its report), the CGPJ and all other reports resulting from the bill’s journey through both houses of parliament.

On Thursday the CGPJ will vote on a report written by two of its members, one conservative and the other progressive, censoring many aspects of the draft legislation. A month ago, the Attorney Council considered at least three points of the project “unconstitutional.”

Some of the items considered of questionable legality include detaining people for committing an administrative offense, and registering homes without evidence of a crime being committed.

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