A Spanish court in Ceuta closed an investigation into 16 Civil Guard officers on Thursday October 15 over the drowning of 15 immigrants attempting to swim from Morocco to the Spanish territory of Ceuta in the north of Africa in February 2014.
A captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant and other officers had been under investigation after they used rubber bullets to cordon off a gathering of several hundred migrants in the water at El Tarajal border crossing between Ceuta and Morocco.
Spanish authorities confirmed that the police had used rubber bullets, but defended the decision taken by the officers involved. The European Commission sought an explanation for the incident and an inquiry was launched.
The court in Ceuta has now “ordered a temporary stay of proceedings” against the involved officers because of a lack of evidence.
However, if autopsy results from the 15 bodies are received by the court it could reopen the investigation.
The autopsies were carried out in Morocco and the court said that Spain had asked for the results many times without receiving any reply.
Judge Serván in Ceuta stated that:
“There is no evidence that could lead to the affirmation that the officers made inadequate use of the riot gear, particularly since there is no protocol regulating its use in a water-based environment.”
With regard to the group of people attempting to make a crossing she said:
“They accepted the risks of illegally entering Spanish territory by sea, swimming at night in a crowd of people, dressing in large amounts of clothes, and ignoring the deterrence actions by Moroccan and Civil Guard law enforcement.”