Amnesty warns of the risk of criminalizing peaceful protest with public disorder

Amnesty International has joined other organizations and parties, particularly from the pro-sovereignty sphere or the left, and has shown its concern about the danger that the reform of the Penal Code, proposed by PSOE and Unidas Podemos and whose processing will be voted on this Thursday in Congress with the repeal of the crime of sedition and its replacement by the crime of aggravated public disorder, "improperly criminalizes" acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
24 November 2022 Thursday 08:34
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Amnesty warns of the risk of criminalizing peaceful protest with public disorder

Amnesty International has joined other organizations and parties, particularly from the pro-sovereignty sphere or the left, and has shown its concern about the danger that the reform of the Penal Code, proposed by PSOE and Unidas Podemos and whose processing will be voted on this Thursday in Congress with the repeal of the crime of sedition and its replacement by the crime of aggravated public disorder, "improperly criminalizes" acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

The director of the organization in Spain, Esteban Beltrán, has affirmed that "the reform must establish precise definitions so as not to unduly criminalize acts of peaceful civil disobedience, nor impose disproportionate penalties for actions related to the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly." .

In a statement, the organization requests that the parliamentary process of this text be an opportunity to "align" the Penal Code with "international human rights standards" and observes in the norm "elements of ambiguity that must be corrected."

All this, after acknowledging positive aspects of the reform, particularly the elimination of the crime of sedition, some modifications to the crime of public disorder and the elimination of the criminal sanction for the dissemination of messages that "serve to reinforce the willingness to commit public disorder". .

However, Amnesty International claims that the reform of the crime of public disorder must ensure that only serious acts of violence and intimidation against people are punished and recalls that the UN Human Rights Committee has stated that, for example, shoving or the disruption of vehicular or pedestrian traffic or daily activities does not constitute violence and has called on States to ensure that the definition of violence in the context of demonstrations is interpreted restrictively, setting a high threshold of damage to property for consider processing, in order to limit it to "serious" cases.

For this reason, the organization sees "with concern" the establishment of an aggravated modality of public disorder that does not penalize situations of real and effective alteration of public order, but rather "the simple possibility of having put it in danger." Specifically, if these acts are "carried out by a crowd whose number, organization and purpose are suitable to seriously affect public order." This definition, according to Amnesty, "contains elements of ambiguity that must be corrected."

In line with this, the organization recalls "the obligation" of the legislator to formulate with "sufficient precision" any norm that imposes restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration, so that "a person can regulate their behavior in accordance with this norm ".

Likewise, Amnesty recalls that the reform of the Penal Code of 2015 established a new criminal type, the crime of invasion and use of the headquarters of legal persons, and points out that the current reform proposal not only maintains this crime, but also "expressly sanctions these facts when they are carried out without violence and without intimidation". In this way, warns Amnesty, "the penalization of non-violent acts would be maintained, if there is a "relevant disturbance of the normal activity" of the entity. The ambiguous concept of "disturbance of normal activity" does not allow us to know in advance what actions would be punishable, laments the organization.

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