Pablo Gabilondo / Beatriz Parera
6 November 2023
Archive image of a plenary session of the CGPJ. (EFE)
NINE VOTES IN FAVOUR AND FIVE AGAINST
A progressive did not attend the plenary session as he considered it to be “manifestly illegal” and the president, a conservative, voted blank so as not to enter “political terrain”.
The General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) has approved this Monday an institutional declaration against the amnesty: “It constitutes a serious violation of fundamental rights and of the very system of division of powers on which our Constitution is inspired and on which the rule of law is based”. The motion was approved by nine votes in favour, five against and one blank.
The plenary session began at seven in the evening with the presence of all the members except the progressive Álvaro Cuesta, who considered that its mere holding was “manifestly illegal” and did not want to see his name “in the list of attendees”. In principle, the amnesty will be processed in Congress as a bill by the parliamentary groups and, therefore, without a report from the CGPJ, but the conservative bloc has now managed to make itself heard with this declaration.
“The General Council of the Judiciary expresses with this statement its intense concern and desolation for what the projected amnesty law means for the degradation, if not abolition, of the rule of law in Spain,” they warn. “This Council does not dispute the powers of the parliamentary groups represented in the Cortes to make as many proposals for laws as they deem appropriate, but neither can it accept that an initiative be undertaken that so ostentatiously curtails the fundamental rights of citizens and the powers that the Constitution reserves to the judiciary”.
The substitute president of the CGPJ, Vicente Guilarte, who is also a conservative, has opted to distance himself from the rest of the bloc and vote blank. According to legal sources, Guilarte will draft an explanation in which he will make clear his concerns regarding the amnesty, but at the same time, he believes it is advisable to wait until there is a proper text so that the CGPJ does not enter “strictly political terrain”.
The CGPJ statement
The nine conservative members point out, for their part, that one cannot “confuse the interests of Spain with the interests of the acting Prime Minister“. Otherwise, it would be allowed to enact a law that invades “the powers of the judiciary as a means of political negotiation”, which “constitutes a perversion of the constitutional regime” and leaves the way open for “temporary majorities in the composition of the Cortes to impose their criteria over and above constitutional requirements”.
The declaration specifically points out three reasons why the amnesty is unacceptable: “First, because it is not compatible with the principle of the rule of law”; “second, because it means creating a political class that is legally irresponsible and unpunished for its crimes”, and “third, because it violates the independence of the courts in its most basic aspect”.
They argue that the amnesty is not only an attack on the Constitution, but also on the treaties that Spain has signed at European level: “The risk that the time will come when the European Union will decide not to be the alibi of a state that does not comply with its principles should be very present, at this critical moment, in the foresight of those who really intend to act in the interests of Spain”.
Criticism from the government
The Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, expressed her “astonishment” at this possible declaration last Thursday and accused the conservative members of not being “the most appropriate people to give lessons in constitutionality”. The minister recalled that the renewal of the CGPJ is almost five years behind schedule and that the members “should have left and resigned a long time ago”.
The progressive association Judges and Judges for Democracy followed the same line in a message shared on social networks: “The eight members of the CGPJ appointed by the Popular Party know that they have no competence to report on bills or proposals, but they don’t mind getting the judiciary involved in partisan confrontation. They convey a pitiful image of servility”.