Juan-José López Burniol. 06/05/2021
The headquarters of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (France) Andia / Getty
Just read the title of the article to know what I’m going to be about. And I do it because I feel obligated. After writing about this and that every Saturday, it would seem unworthy to avoid the subject. I am going to it shortly and straightly, but not without first framing the subject in an aspect of Catalan reality, which usually goes unnoticed or not very prominent. I start from this observation: 1) A State is a legal system, that is, an order that ranges from the Constitution to the last municipal ordinance. 2) In a democratic society, the essential binding force –sine qua non– of the legal system lies in its voluntary acceptance and submission by a vast majority of the society subject to it; the coercive apparatus (judges and police) is necessary to enforce compliance with the law in exceptional cases, but cannot impose it on a significant part of the population. 3) This is the situation today in Catalonia: a significant part of the Catalans (I do not quantify it, but I consider it decisive) do not accept voluntarily the full force in Catalonia of the Spanish legal system or the jurisdiction of its courts; which, given that another part of the Catalans – also significant and equally decisive – does accept them, causes a crisis that plunges Catalonia into a situation of social fracture, political impotence and economic decline, which in turn destabilizes Spain as a whole. This is the reality in which pardons arise.
The Catalan conflict, which comes from afar and whose current causes I have always denounced (the insolvent unilateralist radicalism of some and the cowardly elusive prosecution of others), led – without the judges looking for it – in respective rulings of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, which the pro-independence side and their media outlets question and reject outright. The Supreme Court imposed high prison sentences on most of the defendants. And, of course, clemency petitions were soon filed. I take the alleged reasons for granted, which I respect. I just add that underlying some of them are the questioning of the Spanish legal system, the absolute distrust in its judges and courts and the repudiation of all its resolutions and sentences. It is explained, therefore, that the alleged injustice or disproportion of the jail sentences imposed are deeply and painfully felt by a large part of Catalan society, which advocated amnesty from the beginning and appealed for pardon as a lesser evil.
The measure will reinforce the international position of Spain when the “confrontation” and “onslaught” arrive.
My position has always started from the same assumption: full compliance with the rulings of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court. I am from that also significant part of Catalans who willingly submit to the Spanish legal system and respect its judges and courts. Which I reconcile with my criticism of the Constitutional Court for its delay and my applause to the Supreme Court for the way in which – at the hands of its president, Judge Marchena – it channeled such a sharp-edged dispute. But, despite this, from the beginning I was in favor of the pardon, understanding that without it it was impossible to face the Catalan political problem, highlighted by the evident fact that a relevant part of Catalan society repudiates the Spanish laws and judges. However, some time later, the insistence of some convicts on their explicit will to recidivism, as well as the harsh gesture of some of them, weakened my conviction. And it has been the text of the recent government agreement, as well as the inauguration speech of the president, Mr. Aragonès, that have reinforced my doubts. Indeed, the agreement speaks of “raising a new onslaught of civic and peaceful confrontation”, which allows “forcing” Spain to resolve the conflict, while the president spoke of “making self-determination and amnesty inevitable” and of “civic and peaceful confrontation”. It was hard for me to support pardons in this context.
But, after thinking about it a lot, I remain in my initial position favorable to the pardon, although now it is for a different reason. I am not doing it to facilitate a political negotiation that I consider impossible because the pro-independence side insist on a swallow (amnesty and self-determination). I do it to reinforce Spain’s international position when the “confrontation” and the “onslaught” arrive. So that it cannot be said then that Spain did not do what it could to avoid the inevitable clash. Therefore: yes to pardon, in the interest of Spain. It will reinforce its position.