It refers to the case of Basque citizen Mikel San Argimiro who was arrested, held incommunicado and (allegedly, most likely) tortured for five days by the Guardia Civil (militarized police corps) in 2002. The sentence condemns Spain to pay 23,000 euros for the fault of investigating the denounces of torture. The sentence is likely to establish a precedent in the matter because Spain almost systematically does not investigate torture while in detention.
The forensic report in San Argimiro's torture case established the first day that he had many lesions, which were dismissed as they could be "compatible with the development of the arrest and the maneuvers of immobilization". This same argument was held by the state attorney in the case of Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola, which, in an exceptional development, resulted in the accusation of several policemen (Guardia Civil again) which will be judged in a month.
In the second day of arrest the forensic physician reported new lesions without attributing them to any particular cause. Four days later, after being sent to prison, another physician found a broken rib.
The European tribunal cannot judge the existence of not of torture, because there is no investigation but can judge that not investigating it is a serious fault, a breach of article 3 of the European Covenant on Human Rights forbidding torture.
There is a long list of similar cases involving Basques as victims; next in line are the well known cases of Unai Romano, whose photos with the face totally deformed by the beatings caused a tremendous impact, and Martxelo Otamendi, director of Basque language newspaper Egunkaria, which is one of the most aggravating cases of persecution against freedom of speech and linguistic diversity.
Unai Romano before and after his arrest
In the past the European tribunal has only ruled against Spain in few occasions, one involving Catalan nationalists, tortured in the context of the Olympic Games of 1992, the other two affect Basque victims: nationalist MP Miguel Castells, who was deprived of parliamentary immunity, judged and sent to prison for a crime of opinion (denouncing that the death squads of the 1980s were not being investigated) and the other happened last year, when Strasbourg condemned Spain to pay 170,000 euros to Mikel Iribarren, who was almost killed by a rubber bullet shot at short distance against his face.
Hopefully this sentence will help to at least contain a bit the systematic impunity of police torture.