Spain: Police Engage In Unlawful Retrieval Of Information On The Sexual Orientation And HIV Antibody Status Of Suspects

The local Police Department of the Spanish City of Valencia was recently discovered to have been using an intake form to collect information on the sexual orientation and HIV antibody status of everyone they placed under arrest. Letters are needed to demand that Valencia Police authorities cease use of that form and that an investigation be launched to determine exactly who was responsible for having institutionalized its use.

According to press reports secured by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Valencia Police force has standardized use of a form to record the "physical characteristics" of persons arrested. Alongside race and gender, the form included boxes to check if the detainee is a transvestite, homosexual, pederast, exhibitionist or voyeur. Among the illnesses the form asked police officers to spot were AIDS and hepatitis. Press reports indicate that over one thousand detainees were processed using the form in question. It is not clear what has been done with those completed forms though several civic groups are calling for their destruction.

Responses by authorities, such as Director of the Valencia Police Force Juan Cotino, have tended to diminish the seriousness of the practice, denying any prior knowledge of its existence and suggesting that its use constituted the harmless excesses of an subordinate.

Three inspectors from the national "Agencia Estatal de Protección de Datos Informáticos" (State Agency in Charge of Information and Records) were sent to Valencia to investigate. That national regulatory body is concerned because Spanish law expressly provides that health status, race and sexual orientation only be included in someone's police records under very strict limitations that the Valencia Police appear to have been violated.

Among other groups, Gais Lliures Del País Valencià has publicly called for a complete investigation into how the physical intake form was created and exactly who approved it use.

Politely worded letters are needed making the following points:

  1. The intake form used by the Valencia Police to record physical characteristics is in evident contradiction of the guarantees of privacy and equal protection under the law stipulated by the Spanish Constitution. HIV antibody status and sexual orientation are irrelevant to the vast majority of police work and have no place in a list of characteristics routinely recorded by police. Collecting information on these characteristics can often foster discrimination.
  2. A complete and impartial investigation is needed to adequately explain how the physical intake form was conceived and which superior officers were responsible for its usage. Residents of Valencia also deserve an explanation as to what steps are being taken to insure that this type of information retrieval is never repeated again.

Write to:

Rita Barberá Nolla
Alcaldesa de Valencia
Plaza del Ayuntamiento no. 1, 1a
46.002 Valencia
Juan Cotino
Concejal de la Policia Local
Plaza del Ayuntamiento no. 1
46.002 Valencia