Amnesty bill absolving Catalan independence movement to be brought before Congress

Pro-independence parties will support Pedro Sánchez's bid for PM

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont during an institutional speech in the Catalan government headquarters after a meeting of the executive on September 20, 2017
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont during an institutional speech in the Catalan government headquarters after a meeting of the executive on September 20, 2017 / Guillem Roset
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

November 13, 2023 01:45 PM

November 14, 2023 11:18 AM

An amnesty bill absolving individuals involved in Catalonia's independence push over the last decade is to be registered in the Spanish Congress on Monday. 

The bill is due to be brought forward jointly by several parties: Spain's Socialists and Sumar, set to form another left-wing coalition government within days, Catalan pro-independence parties Junts and Esquerra Republicana, as well as other parties from the Basque Country and Galicia. 

The amnesty law "for institutional, political and social normalization in Catalonia" paves the way for Pedro Sánchez's reelection as Spanish Prime Minister on Thursday and was a key demand from Catalan parties in negotiations with the Socialists following July's inconclusive general election. 

The amnesty will cover actions carried out between January 1, 2012 and November 13, 2023 and decisions will be adopted within a maximum period of two months, notwithstanding further appeals, which will not have suspensive effects. 

The law will eventually enable those in exile since the peak of the independence push – including former president Carles Puigdemont – to return.

"Overcoming political conflict"

The 23-page document includes 16 articles and 12 introductory pages laying out the motives for the law as a "basis for overcoming a political conflict" and as a tool to "improve coexistence," based on "the Spanish Constitution and the power of Congress." 

Approving this law "is understood as a necessary step to overcome tensions and eliminate some of the reasons" that many residents in Catalonia do not feel connected to Spain, the text reads.

The plan is to "create a social, political and institutional context that promotes financial stability and cultural and social progress in Catalonia and in Spain. A society that can move forward from a democratic point of view, to have the capacity of setting its priorities in coexistence, dialogue and respect, and an eventual understanding between the two sides of the conflict." 

The text highlights the constitutionality of the amnesty and says that the independence movement can pursue its "goals" but within "the national and international legal order." 

Who can benefit from this amnesty? 

The amnesty will not only affect the leaders and organizers of the 2014 and 2017 self-determination referendums, but also those implicated in other potentially illegal acts closely connected to the referendums, such as "preparative acts, various protest actions to allow the [referendums], or showing opposition to the judicial cases of its leaders, including help, collaboration, advice or representation of any kind, and protecting and ensuring the security of those leaders," the text reads.

What does the amnesty bill forgive?

The text of the bill provides an amnesty for "acts committed with the intention of claiming, promoting or seeking the secession or independence of Catalonia, as well as those that have contributed to the attainment of such purposes, including misuse of public funds and usurpation of public functions." 

At various times during the independence push, mass protests have erupted in Catalonia, including after the sentencing of the 2017 referendum organizers. Several court cases have come out of these protests, including against Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) activists. However, some of these CDR activists will not be able to be pardoned, as they are being charged with crimes of terrorism, which is one of the exclusions of the law.

The new law will forgive individuals for "acts of disobedience, whatever their nature, public disorder, attacks against authority, agents and public officials, resistance or other acts against public order and peace" that have been carried out in support of independence.  

Those already prosecuted or convicted are included, as well as those who have not faced trial. 

"Actions carried out during the course of police actions aimed at hindering or preventing" acts in support of independence are also included in the bill. 


The amnesty includes prosecuted police officers, as long as they have not committed "torture and inhuman and degrading treatment." The text says that this decision "does not imply any demerit or reproach for the groups concerned" nor "the criminalization of officials who intervened in defense of public order."  


Certain actions are specifically included from the amnesty, including "acts resulting in death, miscarriage or injury to a fetus, the loss or loss of use of an organ or limb, the loss or loss of use of senses, impotence, sterility or a serious deformity." 

What happens next? 

Once the bill becomes law, courts can order the immediate release of imprisoned individuals affected by the amnesty.

Search and arrest warrants at the national, European and international level will be made void, enabling leaders in exile – including former president Carles Puigdemont – to return. 

However, the bill is likely to be blocked by a court if it is deemed to violate the constitution. In that case, the Constitutional Court will have the final say.   

Supreme Court: "Respect for separation of powers" 

The Supreme Court responded with a statement shortly after the amnesty bill was announced, demanding "absolute respect for the separation of powers."

The statement read: "The workings of the jurisdictional function is always regulated by legality, by the defense of the Constitution and by the protection of the rights and liberties of all citizens, in particular, for a fair application of the law."