Border deaths: UN gets complaint against Spain

A 25-year-old individual from Cameroon, identified by the pseudonym Ludovic, has filed a complaint with the United Nations against Spain, accusing the country of multiple violations of the convention against torture. Ludovic seeks justice for an incident in 2014 when at least 15 people died while attempting to enter Spanish territory from Morocco. Despite three judicial investigations being initiated, all were closed without hearing testimony from survivors or victims’ families.

Ludovic, who was 15 at the time, participated in a group of around 200 people attempting to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco. Despite being unable to swim, he tried to navigate the breakwater that separated both countries. During the attempt, he heard gunshots and observed police using tear gas. Spanish authorities later claimed that the Guardia Civil fired rubber bullets to deter those crossing, resulting in 15 deaths and numerous injuries.

Ludovic, despite being struck by a baton and injured, managed to reach Spanish soil. However, he and 23 others were forcefully pushed back to Morocco without being provided medical aid, translation, or legal assistance. Spain’s then interior minister denied the police’s involvement in the deaths and asserted that rubber bullets were fired at the water, not at people.

In 2019, an investigative judge reopened the case, investigating 16 Guardia Civil officers for reckless homicide and failure in their duty to help. Ludovic, now settled in Germany, expressed a willingness to testify but faced hurdles, with the hearing being canceled without explanation and the case subsequently archived without convictions.

Ludovic’s complaint to the UN Committee against Torture, supported by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), calls for the reopening of the investigation. The ECCHR labeled Ceuta and Melilla as the “European laboratory of border rightlessness” and highlighted the lack of identification of bodies found off Tarajal beach.

Hanaa Hakiki, a senior legal adviser at the ECCHR, emphasized the Playa del Tarajal deaths as emblematic of Europe’s border policies, criticizing the disregard for Black lives. The complaint also underscores the impact on subsequent incidents, such as the Melilla massacre in 2022, where at least 37 people died.

In addition, Spain’s ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, expressed concerns about the conditions faced by around 400 asylum seekers at the Madrid airport. The individuals were reportedly held in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, lacking basic amenities, including beds, access to telephones, and hygiene products. Gabilondo highlighted the unacceptable conditions and the malfunction of essential facilities, further adding to the humanitarian concerns surrounding Spain’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.

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