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UN rights experts urge Spain to reject legal reform projects

[JURIST] Human rights experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Monday urged [press release] Spanish authorities to reject two suggested legal reformations that they say may disrupt freedom and fundamental human rights. Spain's Senate is currently considering reform to both the Penal Code and the Basic Law on the Protection of Public Security. Suggested reform under the Penal Code would, according to OHCHR experts, "pave the way for a disproportionate or discretionary enforcement of the law by authorities." The reform seeks to increase the penalty for protesters, which could have a chilling effect on freedom of assembly in the country. Also, the reform includes provisions against the glorification or justification of terrorism, terminology that the UN experts find too vague. Meanwhile, experts stated that the suggested reform of the Basic Law on the Protection of Public Security "could allow on the spot deportation to their countries of origin of persons at risk of being subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, contrary to the provisions of international human rights law." The experts also warned that such reform would restrict freedom of opinion and expression. Amnesty International [advocacy website] warned [JURIST report] Spain's lower house of parliament earlier this month that the proposed expansion of the law would infringe on individual human rights in the country.

Countries around the world have modified existing laws or passed new laws to curb fears of increasing extremism and terrorism, but critics argue that expansionary laws infringe on basic individual human rights. In January Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] China's proposed new counter-terrorism legislation as a "recipe for abuses." The Chinese government maintains that their draft law conforms to UN resolutions and that it allows for human rights to be respected and guaranteed. Also in January Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain signed into law anti-terrorism legislation [JURIST report] that will establish military courts for the hearing of civilian terrorism related cases. In December Kenya's parliament passed a sweeping new anti-terrorism law [JURIST report] after some of its members engaged in a shoving match that led to blows being exchanged. However, two weeks later the High Court of Kenya suspended eight sections [JURIST report] of the country's new anti-terrorism law until a legal challenge by the opposition is heard by the court.

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