Ethnic profiling and justice in Spain

Published on 06/04/2020

Ethnic profiling is an issue that surrounds police stops nearly in all places where this police power has been subjected to research (Bradford and Loader, 2016). But that topic is specially problematic in Spain due to the fact that the Constitutional Court in 2001 stablished that it was no discriminatory that police officers stops non-white people based on their colour of skin because they are more likely to be foreigners (STC 13/2001), de facto allowing the use of ethnic profiling in police stops. This case involving Rosalind Williams, an Afro-American Spanish woman, could not reach the European Court of Human Rights but it did the Human Rights Committee of United Nations which stated that stopping people based on their colour of skin was discriminatory (United Nations, 2009). (Naciones Unidas, 2009).

Nearly 20 years on, we will have the opportunity to know the position of the European Court of Human Rights in a similar case. This time Zeshan Muhammad reported to be subjected to a police stop based on his ethnic profile in 2013. Zeshan was with a friend in a crowded street in Barcelona and a police officer asked for their ID documentation. When Zeshan asked the reason why they stop him the police officer answered “because you are black”, then Zeshan complained and the police officer hit him. After reporting the case to the Ministry of internal affairs and different courts, including the Constitutional Court, and being dismissed he decided to refer to the European Court of Human Rights alleging that: i) the police stop he was subjected was discriminatory based on 12th protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights; ii) the fact that the police stop occurred in a crowded street violated his right to privacy based on article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights; iii) there were irregularities in the administrative and judicial processes that violated his right to a fair hearing based on article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights (Open Society Fundations, 2017).



Bradford, B. and Loader, I. (2016). Police, crime and order: the case of Stop and Search. In B. Bradford, B. Jauregui, I. Loader and J. Steinberg (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Global Policing (pp. 241–266). London: SAGE.

Open Society Fundations. (2017). Zeshan Muhammad v. Spain. Avaliable in

Spanish Constitutional Court. (2001). Sentence 13/2001, of January 29th.

United Nations. (2009). Communication num. 1493/2006. Retrieved from de

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