Survivor of deadly migrant clash files UN lawsuit against Spain

Survivor of deadly migrant clash files UN lawsuit against Spain
A 15-year-old from Cameroon claims that Spanish police tortured him a decade ago during a pushback operation against migrants from Morocco.
2 min read
01 February, 2024
Ceuta has become a flashpoint for sub-Saharan migrants trying to enter Europe, with Spain routinely accused of brutal tactics in keeping people out [Getty]

A survivor of a deadly migrant altercation in the tiny Spanish exclave of Ceuta a decade ago has filed a complaint with the United Nations against Spain for torture, a rights group said Wednesday.

At least 15 migrants drowned on February 6, 2014 while trying to reach Tarajal beach on Ceuta's south side from neighbouring Morocco.

According to testimony from survivors, Spanish Civil Guard police fired rubber bullets in the direction of the migrants, puncturing the buoys they were clinging to.

After Spanish courts shelved a probe into the affair, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) filed a complaint with the UN Committee Against Torture on behalf of one of the survivors.

The unaccompanied minor from Cameroon, who was just 15 when in 2014 he tried to enter Ceuta, has said he was beaten and tear-gassed by Guardia Civil officers as he struggled to hold onto the sea wall border between Morocco and the Spanish exclave.

He was then apprehended and expelled to Morocco and now lives in Germany where the ECCHR is based.

"The UN must insist that Spain re-opens its investigation into the Tarajal events and that it brings impunity to an end," said the Berlin-based rights group's lawyer, Carsten Gericke.

Spanish authorities have only admitted to firing rubber bullets in the air as a warning.

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Sixteen Civil Guard officers were charged over the incident but Spain's Supreme Court in 2022 shelved the case due to a lack of evidence after several lower courts had opened and closed the case.

"There is still no truth, no justice, the families have not been compensated and therefore there is no guarantee of non-repetition," said Elena Munoz of the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees, a non-governmental organisation also known by its Spanish acronym CEAR.

Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish territories on the northern Moroccan coast, are the European Union's only land borders on the African continent and are frequently the target of migrants hoping to reach mainland Europe.