Editorial, 14 November 2023
The acting Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, explained on Monday in Congress the details of the amnesty law proposal.
FERNANDO VILLAR (EFE)
Socialist party PSOE alone presents a text that unequivocally defends the legal framework of the 78 Constitution.
The long-awaited proposal for an Organic Law on amnesty “for the institutional, political and social normalisation of Catalonia” was registered this Monday in the Congress of Deputies with the solitary signature of the PSOE. The fact that the Socialist Group is requesting that it be processed through the emergency procedure means halving the time taken to draft the law – which would require all the debate and the greatest possible consensus – but will not prevent each parliamentary group from having the opportunity to offer their arguments in favour or against de an iniciative that should be approved by the Parliament as an expression of popular sovereignty.
The text made public on Monday puts an end to weeks of speculation about a measure of grace demanded by Esquerra Republicana and Junts as an essential condition for supporting the investiture of Pedro Sánchez. The bill contains a long explanatory memorandum, 16 articles, two additional provisions and a final provision. The aforementioned additional provisions reform the Criminal Code and the law of the Court of Auditors to expressly incorporate amnesty as a mechanism for extinguishing criminal and accounting responsibility. The aim is to avoid any judicial loopholes that could be used to render ineffective a law that has been criticised long before it was announced.
The extensive explanatory memorandum seems to have been written to justify the proposal to the public as much as, if not more than, to legislators or to the courts that might consider future appeals against it. Moreover, it emphasises that it is an exception to the “fully existing” rules to refute those who claim that the amnesty leaves potential future acts such as those committed in the past in Catalonia unpunished.
The non-explicit allusion to article 155 of the Constitution certifies, in fact, that its enforcement in the face of Catalonia’s illegal declaration of independence in 2017 was perfectly legitimate. And that, therefore, if necessary, it would be so again. Nor does it explicitly mention any of the illegalities committed during the ‘procés’, but the rule known on Monday does not give reason to those who at the time broke the law, although it exempts them from criminal, administrative or accounting liability in the name of the general interest and coexistence.
Contrary to the background story that accompanied last Thursday’s political pact between PSOE and Junts, the preamble of the law reflects a broad majority of Spaniards, including non-independent Catalans.
If in that text the presentation of the pact was handed over to an argument full of historical gapas and ‘procés’ rhetoric that ignores half of the Catalans, now the preamble states unequivocally that “since 1978 Spain has had a constitutional text comparable to those of the countries around us, which guarantees the fundamental rights considered individually and preserves the ideological and political rights of all”. On unilateral temptations, he is equally clear: the goals to be achieved within the constitutional framework are plural, but “all paths must pass within the national and international legal system”.
This is the amnesty law that will be voted on by those who approve it in Congress, in which there is no reference to lawfare, judicial persecution for political reasons, which is mentioned in the political pact, the confusing wording of which caused alarm throughout the legal world.
In short, and while awaiting the parliamentary debate and the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court due to the multiple appeals that have been announced, the law that is set to initiate a new stage in Catalonia is solid and considerably improves the political framework of the agreement between PSOE and Junts.
We are, without a doubt, facing the most controversial project of Pedro Sánchez’s legislature and not only because it conditions its implementation. Now that its articles and technical details are known, it would be a mistake for the government to refrain from explaining in depth the timeliness and ultimate purpose of the measure, as well as the scope of its consequences.
Its promoters should clearly communicate to the public the reasons that lead them to embark on such a far-reaching path. Treating citizens as adults means recognising from the outset something that has no place in the preamble of a law: that the measure of grace is being processed now because Pedro Sánchez needs the votes of Junts to re-establish the coalition government. The candidate will therefore have to frame it within the general objectives of the legislature.
When last September he demanded amnesty as one of the conditions for supporting the the investiture of the Socialist candidate, former president of the Generalitat Carles Puigdemont demanded an agreement in which Catalan society could recognise itself. He was right. But the whole of Catalan society. It should not be forgotten that more than half of Catalan society does not want independence, but an immense majority is in favour of harmony. Spanish society as a whole should also be able to recognise itself in the new political scenario. Despite facing an opposition bent on a spiral of apocalyptic hyperbole, it is up to the government to ensure that this is the case.