This August 17 will not be just any anniversary for the victims of the Rambla and Cambrils attack, but the first after the sentence. Last May the National High Court condemned the three members of the jihadist cell established in Ripoll, in a court ruling that, finally, for the first time put black on white the names of the 338 total victims of those two fateful days, in which 16 people were killed. The struggle of those affected and their families had lasted more than three years in which many of them had denounced the neglect, institutional neglect and the difficulty in being recognized.
The 338 people who appear in the sentence will live this Tuesday the first 17A as official victims but, fourth years later, most of them still maintain a good part of their claims. On the eve of this anniversary, the Unit for the Attention and Assessment of People Affected by Terrorism (UAVAT) has denounced that, at the moment, only 22% of the compensation has been granted. According to the entity’s calculations, more than two months after the National Court recognized them as victims in the ruling, there are still 248 people for whom there is no information on whether or not they have received the compensation that would correspond to them by law.
For the president of the association, Sara Bosch, that four years later most of those affected have not received reparation as a victim from the Ministry of the Interior is “basic negligence.” In his opinion, the recognition and distribution of compensation “must be a proactive task and must be done before the sentence is final.” This is what the president has claimed in a press conference, in which she has also demanded that the protocols be reviewed to avoid the institutional abandonment felt by many of those affected in this type of attack.
The problems regarding the granting of compensation and compensation to the victims of 17A are numerous and have different scope depending on the cases, according to Antonio García, a lawyer for the 11M Association, who appeared as a popular accusation and also on behalf of a group of 74 of the victims of the attacks. “The procedure for compensation is terrifying because in the investigation with the victims a mixed bag was made and they acted without diligence from the first day,” denounces the lawyer. García also indicates that while some of the victims were recognized from the beginning and their personal and material damages were quantified, others do not even today have a forensic report and, at most, their name only appears in the sentence.
“Some victims have appealed to demand that compensation for each person be set in the sentence itself, but I would say that this is not going to happen,” predicts García. For this reason, the prosecution attorney fears that the redress may still take “a long time” to arrive. To begin with, there must be a final judgment, as this has been one of the reasons adduced by the Ministry for not yet starting to repair those affected.
But, for the sentence to be final, the appeals filed by several of those affected must first be resolved, including the popular accusation of the 11M Association. Once they are resolved, it will be time to focus on the compensation part. “It will be necessary to enter into almost individual administrative procedures for each victim, make an assessment regarding what appears in the sentence and, for those who do not have a forensic report, one must be provided, in which physical and psychological damages are rigorously assessed, consequences that it has had, economic losses … “, assures the lawyer, who blames this situation on the investigation carried out by the National Court.
Along the same lines is the complaint from the UAVAT, which has been one of the entities most critical of the treatment given by the institutions to the victims of the Rambla attack. On May 30, shortly after the conviction was known, the president of the association already stressed that the ruling highlighted the “serious deficiencies” in the relationship between those affected and the administration. “In the present summary the victims have been the great forgotten ones,” Magistrate Alfonso Guevara, president of the court, wrote in the sentence. A statement that relieved the associations of those affected but which, according to denounce, has not served to improve the situation.
Resources to claim murder convictions
Another issue that the victims have been pointing out since the sentence was passed is the bittersweet sentiment over the fact that finally there are no convictions for murder. Specifically, the National Court sentenced Mohamed Houli Chemlal to 53 and a half years in prison and Driss Oukabir to 46 and a half years for belonging to a terrorist organization, manufacture of explosives and attempted damage, and another 8 years to Said Ben Lazza for collaboration with terrorist organization. However, the Criminal Chamber acquitted the first two of up to 14 crimes of murder, to varying degrees, for which they had been accused by the victims’ families.
Now some accusations have filed appeals to try to improve that part of the sentence, among them the lawyers of the 11M Association. “We do not ask for the nullity of the sentence, we ask for the nullity of the first legal argument, which says that the accused cannot be tried for the events of Cambrils and Las Ramblas because they were not prosecuted for it, that is, those crimes were not initially included “, explains the lawyer García. “But we are not inventing the facts, they are described in the sentence, which establishes an account of proven facts in which both appear as necessary cooperators or, at least, as accomplices,” he says.
The issue of murder crimes has been a constant legal debate between the different accusations. Both the Barcelona City Council and the Generalitat, both in person, ended up preferring not to accuse these criminal types for technical reasons. Other parties chose another path. It will be the Appeals Chamber who ends up resolving this request. However, it is clear for García that Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir were necessary cooperators, among other things because it was the latter who rented the vehicle of the attack since the others could not do so. “The van could not have entered the Ramblas without the intervention of Oukabir”, sums up the lawyer, who considers that if the terrorists were from ETA they would have been convicted of crimes of murder.