November 27, 2020

The Supreme Court of Madrid admits an appeal to request greater transparency in arms exports


The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM), has admitted to processing a letter from Greenpeace on the violation of the right to freedom of expression, after the government’s denial to this entity of two requests for information on the authorization of exports arms to countries involved in armed conflicts. The litigation is based on a joint investigation by elDiario.es and this NGO published last August, which demonstrated the use of Spanish mortars by Saudi Arabian soldiers on the border with Yemen.

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Based on the Official Secrets Law – approved during the Franco regime – the Executive denied Greenpeace access to the information requested on the export of these mortars, a response that prevents verifying whether the Government is properly complying with the national and European export law armament as well as the International Arms Trade Treaty.

During the last year, elDiario.es has documented in different investigative reports how arms export control laws – which prevent exporting to countries at war or which may use the material to violate human rights – are routinely violated without any legal consequence. Since the planes carrying mercenaries and materiel to the Libyan war -whose maintenance is carried out in Getafe- to the aforementioned Spanish mortars used in Yemen. It has also revealed the illegal exports of military vessels to Morocco and the use of Spanish ammunition by Nicaraguan police to suppress protests in the Latin American country, among other cases.

The one who makes the decision in Spain about where weapons can be exported is a body called the Interministerial Board of Defense Material and Dual Use (JIMMDU), made up of representatives of the ministries of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Defense, Economy and Finance and the Interior. The meetings are behind closed doors and the minutes are secret and inaccessible thanks to a 1987 decision based on the aforementioned Official Secrets Law.

According to the arguments developed by Greenpeace, access to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom to freely communicate or receive truthful information, recognized in the Constitution. This legal premise has been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in its jurisprudence, and with this judicial procedure, Greenpeace intends that the Spanish Courts incorporate this international doctrine, which recognizes that the right of access to information is a right instrumental and accessory to the right to freedom of expression and information. The ECHR also establishes that the limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and information must meet a series of requirements (such as pursuing a legitimate and non-spurious purpose), which according to Greenpeace do not exist in the present case.

The court has given the organization eight days to present the lawsuit, which is part of a legal offensive on different fronts undertaken by the NGO to try to end the opacity of arms exports, a lack of transparency that facilitates that National and international laws on the trade in war material are allegedly regularly violated.

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