Weblog Gerber van der Graaf

Hieronder vind je de weblog van Gerber van der Graaf, ingenieur. Hij woont al een jaar of 22 in Catalonië en houdt sinds juni 2017 een weblog bij met beschouwingen over de politieke situatie - met name de vervolging van de Catalaanse politici. Met zijn goedvinden is dit artikel geïntegreerd in deze website, maar kan uiteraard ook ‘los’ worden bekeken.

The Via Laietana police station, the amnesia of the Spanish government

16 mei 2024

In Spain, torture was practiced during the Franco dictatorship and continues to be practiced now. And worst of all is the impunity

Translation of

Gemma Pasqual i Escrivà

The Spanish government recognizes the Via Laietana police station as a memory center, but does not intend to close it. It is impossible to know for sure how many people have been tortured in this police station. The Spanish Minister of the Interior, Rodolfo Martín Villa, in an attempt to hide these crimes under a blanket of silence and impunity, ordered the destruction of the archives of the police services in 1977. In any case, some researchers talk about thousands of people from the entire ideological spectrum and social profile.

A forgotten memory, because it ignores the cases of torture committed in democracy. As in the case of Blanca Serra, Eva Serra, Maria Teresa Lecha, Montserrat Tarragó, Mireia Comas, Ruth Gavarró, Núria Cadenes or Xènia Garcia, on October 18, 2019 Paula and Guillem were arrested in Via Laietana. The testimonies of what happened in this house of torture will never be erased from my memory.*

The walls of the “Jefatura Superior de Policía de Barcelona”, in Via Laietana, have been silent witnesses to a systematic practice of ill-treatment and torture, with total impunity and violation of fundamental rights, crimes against humanity, arbitrary detentions for political reasons, for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity, trade union militancy, neighborhood militancy, ethnic or racial discrimination or commitment to the Catalan language and culture.

As the Dignity Commission claims, the police station must be managed by the memorialist entities and transferred to the Generalitat (Catalan govt). This is the only way to guarantee adequate and respectful treatment of historical memory. The highest Spanish authorities, including the head of state and the Minister of Defense, must apologize for the human rights violations committed in the middle of the city of Barcelona.

The walls of the police station on Via Laietana not only hide the memories of the horrors of the Franco regime, but also of the “imperfect” democracy, as the newspaper The Economist described Spain in 2022. Since the Spanish state signed – in 1985 – and ratified – in 1987 – the Convention against Torture, the complaints about cases of torture and ill-treatment by the bodies and security forces have not stopped. In Spain, torture was practiced during the Franco dictatorship, and continues to be practiced nowadays. And the worst of all is the impunity; on the rare occasions that police officers are convicted by a judge, they are automatically pardoned by the government.

One of the most egregious cases is that of a Spanish policeman who has declared against the Democratic Tsunami and who has been investigated for torture in relation to the Paula and Guillem cases. This officer, who is presented as an accusation for the injuries he claims to have received during the fighting of the protests, is being investigated for ill-treatment, torture and degrading treatment in two different courts in Barcelona, by the 30th and the 11th court.

Guillem, the boy in the orange sweatshirt, who was arrested on Via Laietana when he was a minor and taken to the prefecture, explained: “When I entered the prefecture on Via Laietana I received a few slaps on the head and neck every time I tried to look up. They humiliated me in there, making me kneel on the ground, facing the wall and was surrounded by all of them.”

The Spanish state has been condemned ten times by the European Court of Human Rights for not investigating allegations of torture. Of these ten, on seven occasions the investigating judge was Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the current Minister of the Interior. On the other hand, international human rights bodies, such as the Committee Against Torture, the special rapporteur on the question of torture or the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, among many others, have warned that the Spanish authorities do not apply all the required measures to eradicate torture and to avoid impunity for crimes, and have denounced situations that violate human rights.

Still with the hangover of the election result, it’s time for pacts. The closure of the Via Laietana police station, which to the shame of all democrats continues to operate, should be at all negotiating tables. Recognizing this house of horrors as a center of memory and not closing it, is a perversity of the Spanish state. The memory of the victims cannot coexist with their torturers.

Torture must be prosecuted, rejected and socially redressed with a legal sanction. This is in itself the greatest collective reparation that can be made in relation to the victims: applying justice, fighting against impunity and oblivion, while guaranteeing the victims’ rights to truth, justice, reparation and the guarantee of non-repetition. It is essential not to forget past crimes in order to try not to repeat them. This is why it is essential to transform the building of the “Jefatura Superior de Policía” on Via Laietana into a space of memory, documentary archives and an interpretation center of impunity and torture.

Translator’s note: Gemma Pasqual i Escrivà is the author of the book ‘Torturades. Via Laietana 43. Vint-i-dues dones, testimonis del terror‘ (Tortured. Via Laietana 43. Twenty-one women, testimonies of terror)

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