News 01/07/2024

Protesting is not terrorism; it is our right to raise our voice.

It is 9 years since the anniversary of the entry into force of the Gag Laws. These laws, the Law of Citizen Security and the double reform of the Penal Code, have increased the tools of censorship, obstruction and control of civil society through criminal and administrative means and have entrenched the impunity of police violence in the Spanish State.

The organizations behind the manifesto consider that the repressive reaction against civil society is escalating in the current cycle of social mobilization, by implementing measures that limit the ability of civil society to defend their rights, organize and express themselves.

One of the methodologies used is to falsely accuse social and political movements of terrorism or criminal organization, thus contributing to a drift that is not compatible with a democratic rule of law or international human rights law. The excessively broad and imprecise definition of these in the Penal Code implies serious repercussions for people exercising the right to assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression and information.

Driving entities:

Amnistía Internacional, Defender a quien Defiende (DqD), Extinction Rebellion XR, Futuro Vegetal, Greenpeace, Irídia, Novact, No Somos Delito y Rebelión Científica.

STATEMENT

Protesting is not terrorism; it is our right to speak out.

We are witnessing a new cycle of mobilization around the world, feminist, anti-racist, environmental and now Palestinian solidarity movements have inspired millions of people to take to the streets or use new channels and platforms to demand racial and climate justice, equality, an end to gender-based violence and all forms of discrimination. While the mobilization has been massive and global, it has been met, without exception, with a repressive and often violent response from the state.

As a result of this repressive reaction in most European countries, the use of a series of measures that increasingly reduce the space of civil society and limit its ability to organize has been documented. One of the methodologies used consists of falsely accusing social and political movements of terrorism or criminal organization, thus contributing to a drift that is not compatible with a democratic rule of law or international human rights law.

In the Spanish state we have seen numerous examples of this repression, documenting how politics, the judiciary and the media are clearly criminalizing protest. Instead of facilitating and promoting the right to protest, the Spanish state is resorting to increasingly extreme measures to suppress and restrict the rights of civil society.

For example, through the extensive and disproportionate application of the crimes of terrorism and criminal organization, two of the most serious offenses under criminal law. The excessively broad and imprecise definition of these in the Penal Code has serious repercussions for people exercising the right to assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression and information. However, the latest reform of the crime of terrorism in the Penal Code has not resulted in greater protection against terrorist threats, but in a setback for individual and collective freedoms of civil society.

Now that it is 9 years old, it is important to remember that this is reinforced thanks to the approval, in 2015, of the Citizen Security Law -popularly known as the Gag Law- together with a double reform of the Penal Code. These laws have increased the tools of censorship, obstruction and control of civil society through criminal and administrative channels and have entrenched the impunity of police violence in the Spanish State.

These accusations are neither new nor an isolated case, but are part of a global upward trend. In 2023, it became evident, when the last report of the State Attorney General (2022) classified the actions of the antifascist, ecologist and Catalan independence movements in the section of “national terrorism. “1 Likewise, the last annual report of Europol on the situation of terrorism in the European Union (2023), included the Catalan and Basque independence movements as terrorists.

The appearance of these movements in both reports legitimizes certain discourses issued from political tribunes, media or social networks, in which, for example, environmental activists are defined as “eco-terrorists”. In this regard, Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, has recommended that States take immediate action to counter discourses that portray environmental defenders and their movements as criminals.

We were also outraged to learn how anti-Islamophobia activists Mohamed Said Badaoui and Amarouch Azbir were deported to Morocco after 30 years of living in the Spanish state on charges they both strongly denied.

Currently, the most serious case -but not the only one- is the investigation by the Audiencia Nacional and the Supreme Court for terrorism against the Catalan movement of Tsunami Democràtic. The accusation against this peaceful movement is a direct attack on the fundamental rights of all the people who in 2019 took to the streets and exemplifies, once again, the extensive application of the Penal Code, which unduly criminalizes protest and civil disobedience.

We denounce this trend, which allows the misuse of the term “terrorism” to have been trivialized and turned into a punitivist and exemplary tool against mass social mobilization, to prevent and silence it. Every day, the number of cases increases and, at present, more than fifty people from four movements (Tsunami Democràtic, Futuro Vegetal, collective ‘Defensem Palestina 7F’ and union activists in solidarity with the people prosecuted on May 1, 2022) are being investigated, accused of crimes of terrorism, organization or criminal group.

Investigating a social or political movement for terrorism or criminal organization with the sole purpose of criminalizing protest, limiting fundamental rights and silencing political dissidence, is an action that restricts the space of civil society, does not respect human rights and endangers democratic principles and the rule of law.

Likewise, the Penal Code of the Spanish State goes against international norms that define and restrict when an act can be considered terrorist; circumstances that are not present in the open cases against the aforementioned movements.

This criminalization has a dissuasive and demobilizing effect on society as a whole, because it ultimately pursues the mechanism through which all kinds of collectives and organizations, whether they are trade union, environmental, pro-independence, anti-racist or any other type of social struggle, defend their rights and freedoms.

As people and organizations that work in favor of a more just society and that consider the right to protest as an essential mechanism to achieve social change, we demand that the necessary measures be taken to stop the use of accusations of terrorism or criminal organization against social and political movements and that all accusations be withdrawn.

Therefore, we demand that this vague definition no longer be used to criminalize protest and that the Penal Code be reformed to bring the definition of the crimes of terrorism or criminal organization in line with international standards.