Melilla massacre: a year without justice, a year of impunity



24 June 2023 marks one year since the Melilla massacre.

One year since the serious human rights violations perpetrated by the Spanish and Moroccan states, which resulted, according to various specialized sources, in the death and extrajudicial killing of at least 37 people, as well as 77 victims of enforced disappearance, and hundreds denied assistance and subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The majority were refugees from Sudan, many of them minors, who were illegally pushed back and prevented from exercizing their human right to seek asylum. 

The Melilla massacre was the most serious episode of border violence perpetrated on European soil in recent times, according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). It has also been claimed as such by the anti-racist movement and multiple human rights organisations in Spain, international bodies and UN special rapporteurs. Despite these claims, the Spanish government has systematically failed in its duty of due diligence, refusing to clarify the facts, determine responsibilities, promote accountability or repair the damage.

Throughout this year, opaque, contradictory and fallacious versions of events have been given by the Spanish Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the person responsible for the actions of the Spanish State Security Forces and Corps. The Minister has been strongly supported by the coalition parties of the self-styled "most progressive government in the history of Spain“. He has also been publicly endorsed time and again by President Pedro Sánchez, which is evidence of the systemic and institutional racism within the Spanish State. 

The crimes under international law perpetrated on 24 June 2022 by Spanish and Moroccan state agents cannot be described as a tragedy. It was a coordinated action between two governments that resulted in a massacre. It is a massacre that, like the Tarajal massacre and others that preceded it, demonstrates the racial and colonial character of the migration policies designed by the European Union and implemented by member states and subcontracted third countries. These policies have the aim of hindering and preventing international mobility from the global South to the global North at the same time that goods and resources are plundered in the opposite direction.

In this context, the undersigned organisations declare:

The vast majority of the survivors of the Melilla massacre who were illegally pushed back were refugees:

On 24 June 2022, the police authorities carried out hundreds of summary and collective pushbacks in Melilla qualified as illegal by the Ombudsman and by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, since they did not comply with the standards of due process, eliminating for refugees the possibility of applying for asylum in the conditions and with the guarantees determined by international standards, the Spanish Asylum Law and even the same Law of Citizen Security, better known as the Gag Law.

The vast majority of the victims of the Melilla massacre came from Sudan, a country immersed in a deep political crisis and an armed conflict that has raged for years against the civilian population. This is a reality widely recognized by the Spanish state, which in the last five years, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior, has granted international protection to 90% of Sudanese people who have managed to reach Spanish territory to seek asylum. Their difficulties to access Spanish territory is a sign of the discrimination of black refugees in the granting of visas which they suffer disproportionately in relation to other persecuted populations, as evidenced by the priority European response to refugees from Ukraine.

In this respect, it It is also relevant to point out that the majority of black refugees from African countries in conflict are not authorized to travel to Spain through the procedure established by Article 38 of the Asylum Law, which should allow them to initiate the process of international protection in Spanish consulates and embassies in any country. Such is the case of the Sudanese refugee Basir, who, after being tortured and illegally pushed back, is the only survivor of the massacre of 24 June 2022 and who has applied for international protection at the Spanish Embassy in Rabat. To date, Basir's request remains unanswered by the Spanish government, pending his transfer to Spain, which demonstrates that this route defended by the Ministry of the Interior before the European and Spanish Parliaments, and alleged by Spain in the case of N.D. and N.T. vs. Spain before the European Court of Human Rights, is nothing more than a fallacy.

The impunity for crimes under international law and other human rights violations:

One year after the Melilla massacre, none of those responsible have been investigated and all of them enjoy absolute impunity. On the one hand, the parliamentary commission of enquiry was obstructed on successive occasions, to the point of making it completely impossible thanks to the impunity pact of the parties in the governing coalition. On the other hand, despite the announcement by the State Attorney General's Office that it would investigate the facts, on 23 December 2022, the Coordinating Prosecutor for Aliens, Beatriz Sánchez, closed the investigation without demanding a judicial investigation, in a decision that breaches the State's duty of due diligence and violates the right of access to justice for the victims. The Spanish state also deliberately ignores its own international responsibilities and jurisdictional powers in matters of human rights and crimes under international law.

One year has passed and the Spanish State has not opened an independent and impartial investigation that would allow the victims and their families to have access to truth, justice and reparation. Access to justice is the only way to guarantee the non-repetition of another massacre of migrants and refugees on Spanish territory, perpetrated by Spanish State agents or with their acquiescence. However, one year later, the actions and omissions of the state remain uninvestigated and unpunished. One year later, the victims still have no access to their right to justice and the families have not found, identified or buried their relatives.

For all of the above reasons, after a year without justice, we demand:

1. The immediate dismissal of the Minister of the Interior, Grande-Marlaska as the person responsible for the operation implemented on 24 June 2022 in Melilla and his removal from any electoral list in the next general elections on 23 July.

2. With a view to the next general elections, it is essential that the political parties publicly commit themselves to the search for truth, justice and reparation for the victims of the Melilla massacre.

3. The opening of independent and effective investigation mechanisms that comply with the Spanish State's obligation to prosecute international crimes, especially those perpetrated by its own agents against racialized people.

4. The immediate availability to the families of all necessary mechanisms for the search for missing persons, as well as for the identification and recovery of the remains of the dead.

5. The effective implementation of the means to initiate the procedure for international protection in diplomatic delegations, through article 38 of the Asylum Law, as well as the creation of other legal and secure mechanisms to obtain visas and apply for international protection in Spain from other states.

6. The immediate transfer to Spain of the Sudanese refugee Basir and the immediate granting of international protection for him and for all the survivors of the massacre of 24 June 2022.

7. The elimination of the specific mechanism of returns and expulsions in Ceuta and Melilla for being discriminatory in relation to the rest of the population and for lacking the basic legal guarantees of any procedure.

8. The end of illegal expulsions and refoulements throughout Spanish territory.

9. The eradication of any form of racial discrimination in real and effective access to international protection.

10. Sufficient, effective and decentralized resources for victims of persecution and human rights violations, as well as the elimination of any barrier that prevents effective access to apply for asylum in Spain.

11. The elimination of the racist centres for the deprivation of liberty of foreigners known as Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros.

12. The prioritization during the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union of the debate on respect for the rights of people in processes of human mobility, as well as the fight against impunity for serious international crimes perpetrated by state agents of and in member states.

Wer wir sind

Dem Unrecht das Recht entgegensetzen – das ist das erklärte Ziel und die tägliche Arbeit des European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

Das ECCHR ist eine gemeinnützige und unabhängige Menschenrechtsorganisation mit Sitz in Berlin. Sie wurde 2007 von Wolfgang Kaleck und weiteren internationalen Jurist*innen gegründet, um die Rechte, die in der Allgemeinen Erklärung der Menschenrechte sowie anderen Menschenrechtsdeklarationen und nationalen Verfassungen garantiert werden, mit juristischen Mitteln durchzusetzen.

Gemeinsam mit Betroffenen und Partner*innen weltweit nutzen wir juristische Mittel, damit die Verantwortlichen für Folter, Kriegsverbrechen, sexualisierte Gewalt, wirtschaftliche Ausbeutung und abgeschottete Grenzen nicht ungestraft davonkommen.


Maria Bause
T: +49 30 69819797

Philipp Jedamzik
T: +49 30 29680591