Council of Europe adviser backs amnesty bill but criticizes its processing

Venice Commission says proposed law is 'legitimate' but recommends 'larger qualified majority' for approval

Claire Bazy-Malaurie, president of the Venice Commission, during the meeting
Claire Bazy-Malaurie, president of the Venice Commission, during the meeting / Albert Cadanet
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 15, 2024 03:38 PM

March 15, 2024 03:38 PM

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters, has endorsed the aim of the amnesty bill in an opinion adopted during its plenary session on Friday.  

The proposed law, which will benefit Catalan pro-independence figures who have been investigated, accused or charged, moved a step closer to becoming law on Thursday after the Spanish Congress voted to approve it.   

Despite fierce criticism from conservative parties branding it unconstitutional, the Venice Commission said the law's goal of "institutional, political and social normalization in Catalonia" was legitimate.   

However, the Council of Europe advisor urges "all Spanish authorities" to "take the necessary time for an in-depth dialogue in a spirit of loyal cooperation" around the debate on the amnesty law.  

The text also recommends that the Spanish government "seek a larger qualified majority" to approve the law, even though the Constitution does not require it. 

Who will benefit from the bill?

Once approved, the amnesty law will benefit all those involved in the independence movement, pardoning individuals who have been investigated, accused or charged with a wide range of crimes, including embezzlement, disobedience, and even terrorism.  

It will also cover those sentenced in 2019 for their roles in organizing the referendum, such as exiled former president Carles Puigdemont and his former vice president Oriol Junqueras. 

The original amnesty proposal covered those prosecuted from January 2012 to November 2023, but the revised version extends this period back to November 2011.  

Estimates of the number of beneficiaries under the law vary widely. Based on the first draft, the pro-independence civil society organization Òmnium estimated that around 1,500 people would benefit, while the Socialists estimated the number to be around 300. 

Currently, the exact number of beneficiaries under the current text remains uncertain, but Junts claims that the revised version will extend its benefits to an additional 150 to 200 people compared to the original proposal.