A new report has confirmed how a young man lost an eye during the demonstrations following the October 2019 sentencing of the pro-independence leaders in Plaça Urquinaona in Barcelona, specifically in Carrer Trafalgar. It was due to the impact of a foam bullet, fired by Catalonia's Mossos d'Esquadra police, as they used this type of projectile during the protests and riots that took place on those days. However, beyond the conclusion of the report by the Institute of Legal Medicine of Catalonia, no officer of the Mossos police corps has been charged. The case is being investigated by a Barcelona court.
The report correlates the injuries to the left eye of the protester, a man who had just turned 18 and previously in public care, with the high-speed impact of a 40 millimetre-diameter viscoelastic foam projectile - that is, a foam bullet. The man, who was treated urgently at the Hospital de Sant Pau, now wears a custom-made left-eye prosthesis, and has received psychological help since the day of the incident.
According to the report, since the incident in 2019, the young man has had "feelings of emptiness and a belief that he has few expectations for the future as a result of the loss of his eye", as well as "sadness, low self-esteem and demotivation".
The forensic study clarifies one of the main unknowns of the case: whether the impact that had caused the loss of the eye was a rubber bullet - that is, as used by the Spanish National Police - or foam - from Mossos d'Esquadra officers. Irídia, the pro-civil rights group that represents the young man, wants the Catalan government to recognize that one of its agents was to blame for the aggression, and therefore compensate the victim.
The Irídia group has long been calling for the use of foam projectiles to be banned in public order operations by the Mossos, just as rubber bullets were prohibited years ago. It recalls that this is the third case in which someone has lost an eye due to the impact of a foam bullet.
The young man was in hospital for a month and had to undergo two operations, and now his lawyer Anaïs Franquesa believes that his case has "once again" shown that the mechanisms of the Mossos do not work. The Catalan police informed the judge that 19 officers were in the area when the young man was mutilated, which makes it very difficult to know who shot him. The lawyer thus believes that it will be difficult for the criminal case to move forward, as responsibility for the alleged criminal actions must be individualized.
The victim has the right to claim compensation from the Catalan government, even if the criminal proceedings are closed and the specific agent who shot the victim goes unpunished. This case may be repeated in that of a woman represented by Iridia who was also injured by a foam projectile the same day, in her case in the head, which caused hearing loss in one ear and a diagnosis of chronic epilepsy. Both conditions have inevitable effects on the young woman's social and work life.
Meanwhile, the young man who lost an eye to a foam projectile in the protests called by the Democratic Tsunami at El Prat airport on the day of the pro-independence leaders' sentence, October 14th, 2019, will also be able to lodge a complaint with the Catalan interior ministry. In his case, as in the previous two, it has also been clarified that it was the Mossos who fired the bullet, but none of the three investigated officers admitted to being the perpetrator. Therefore, his case went no further.
Banning foam projectiles
This year, a dozen people who had an eye mutilated by the police have demanded in a video to end "police impunity" and ban foam projectiles and rubber bullets, which continue to be used by Spanish police in Catalonia, even though the Catalan Parliament banned them in 2014. The video, which explains that since 2001, 14 people have lost sight in an eye due to projectiles fired by riot police, includes the testimony of prominent people such as Roger Español and Ester Quintana.
Som moltes les víctimes de la violència policial i l'abus dels projectils, tant Bales de goma, com foam.— Roger Español (@FrontRoger) February 23, 2021
Ajuda' ns a aconseguir la seva prohibició!#ProuViolènciaPolicial#ProuImpunitatPolicial
Translation of Tweet:
"There are many of us who are victims of police violence and abuse of projectiles, of both rubber and foam. Help us to achieve their banning. @stopbalesdegoma" — Roger Español
Following the case of a young woman who lost an eye in the protests against the imprisonment of Pablo Hásel in February this year, the Catalan Ombudsman asked the Mossos for information on the use of foam bullets and opened an ex officio action based on her case.