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The expected analysis of the Venice Commission on the Amnesty Law for those implicated in the ‘procés’ will neither be the complete endorsement that the PSOE was hoping for nor the condemnation that the PP wanted when it submitted a series of questions on the measure to this consultative body of the Council of Europe from the Senate. In the text approved this Friday, the constitutional experts recognise the usefulness of amnesty laws as an instrument of political reconciliation, but at the same time express a series of doubts about the way in which they have been processed in Spanish institutions.

ANNA BUJ – VENECIA, 15 MARCH 2024

The president of the Venice Commission, Claire Bazy Malaurie (c) with the vice-president, Marta Cartabia (d), during the meeting of the Commission that will approve its final opinion on the amnesty law this Friday.

 EFE/ Enrique Del Viso

The consultative body of the Council of Europe recommends limiting the temporal scope and coverage of the measure for those involved in the ‘procés’.

The expected analysis of the Venice Commission on the Amnesty Law for those implicated in the ‘procés’ will neither be the complete endorsement that the PSOE was hoping for nor the condemnation that the PP wanted when it submitted a series of questions on the measure to this consultative body of the Council of Europe from the Senate. In the text approved this Friday, the constitutional experts recognise the usefulness of amnesty laws as an instrument of political reconciliation, but at the same time express a series of doubts about the way in which they have been processed in Spanish institutions.

The conclusions set out by the organisation are not very different from those that were already pointed out in a first draft of the law, stating that “national unity and social and political reconciliation are legitimate objectives” for the amnesty laws. Nor do the experts believe that there has been a violation of the separation of state powers, because it is the judges who will apply the general criteria of the law. They do not even enter into an assessment of its constitutionality, because they believe that this is a matter for Spanish institutions. “We have done our best to establish the general limits. The comparative study shows that amnesties are common in many countries,” explained Dutch judge Martin Kuijer, one of the rapporteurs who analysed the measure. “We have also said that normalisation, as it is called in Spain and in the title of the law, is a legitimate objective in itself, but we have made certain recommendations,” he continued.

In particular, the Venice Commission is very clear in suggesting to the Spanish authorities that they try to achieve a larger qualified majority than the absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies required for an organic law. This is because, they argue, the draft law has followed an urgency procedure, and they have observed that this has increased a “deep and virulent division” in the political class, the institutions, the judiciary, academics and Spanish society. They therefore see it as desirable for the parliamentary majority to cooperate with the opposition in the search for greater consensus and believe it would be positive if it could be included in a constitutional reform when the time comes.

“It is especially important, given the potentially divisive effects of an amnesty, that there is an appropriate broad majority voting in favour in order to build bridges,” warned Kuijer. “To achieve that social and political reconciliation, in our view a legitimate goal, there has to be an inclusive process. And that means that an accelerated legislative process might not be the best thing for amnesty laws,” he insisted.

There are other explicit suggestions. For example, the Venice Commission believes that the Amnesty Law covers a very broad period of time and offers too vague a coverage and should be narrowed down. It therefore calls for more specificity on the temporal scope and coverage of the application of this political measure. “We are not necessarily saying that it is not appropriate, but we have not seen justification for the dates proposed for this amnesty,” said the Dutch jurist. On this, the experts call for a closer causal link to be guaranteed between the consultations held in Catalonia on 9 November 2014 and 1 October 2017 and the acts of embezzlement and corruption that would be amnestied. On terrorism, they believe that amnesties “are only compatible with international standards” if serious human rights violations are excluded.

Both the PSOE and the PP have offered opposing readings. “The Minister of Justice, Félix Bolaños, defended the idea that there could be an amnesty in Spain for reconciliation in Catalonia. The Socialist Isaura Leal, second secretary of the Congress Bureau, present at the session, said she was “enormously satisfied” with the meeting in which, in her opinion, it has been accredited that the amnesty is “within the framework of international and European law” and guarantees “the principle of equality”. “It has been a plenary session to five”, said the president of the Senate, the popular Pedro Rollán, saying that the opinion has taken up the amendments that the Upper House had presented on the law. The President of the Upper House also believes that the opinion makes an express reference to the fact that given the division that this norm has provoked, “it would have been necessary to move forward with a constitutional reform”.

The 61 voting members of the Venice Commission have been holed up since early this morning in the museum of the Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, where the plenary sessions of this consultative body are held four times a year in the city of canals thanks to an agreement with the Italian region of Veneto. Beforehand, other cases concerning countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Poland and Ukraine were examined, and afterwards, behind closed doors, the final exchanges of opinion took place between the members of the Venice Commission, the President of the Senate and the Second Secretary of the Bureau of the Congress of Deputies. Among the legal experts who have drafted the final text are prominent names such as the former president of the Italian Constitutional Court Marta Cartabia – the first woman to do so – and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Philip Dimitrov. In the corridors of the Venetian museum where the meeting was held, a member of the Commission was astonished by the expectation: “There has never been press in this place before”.

https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20240315/9562664/comision-venecia.html

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