Spain's top judicial authority approves declaration against amnesty for Catalan independence leaders

Magistrates say amnesty would mean the "abolition of the rule of law in Spain"

A meeting of the General Council of the Judiciary, Spain's top judicial body, November 2023
A meeting of the General Council of the Judiciary, Spain's top judicial body, November 2023 / Catalan News
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Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

November 6, 2023 08:30 PM

November 6, 2023 08:49 PM

Spain's top judicial authority, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), has approved an institutional declaration against an amnesty for Catalan pro-independence leaders.

The group of magistrates believes that such a move would mean the "abolition of the rule of law in Spain." 

The text, prepared in an extraordinary meeting this afternoon, was approved with nine votes in favor, five against, and one abstention.

Acting Prime Minster Pedro Sánchez has publicly backed an amnesty for the leaders of the 2017 independence referendum held in Catalonia, but the much-anticipating bill has not yet been put forward. 

The Socialist leader is attempting to garner enough support from various political parties to govern in Spain for another legislature, and an amnesty is one of the prerequisites for pro-independence parties Esquerra and Junts, who hold 7 seats in the Spanish Congress each, to negotiate their support for Sánchez's PM bid. 

The acting PM has already reached an agreement with Esquerra Republicana, but the ruling Socialist Party is still locked in talks with Junts for their support. For Sánchez to be elected again, he needs the yes votes of Junts. 

Approved text

The text outlines the conservative majority council's "intense concern" for the "degradation" of the rule of law in Spain with a potential amnesty.

"To confuse the interest of Spain with the interest of the president of the interim government, to avoid the hypothetical formation of a government of parties with an ideology different from his, is something manifestly incompatible with political alternation," they warn.

The amnesty law would infringe on the authority of the judiciary, according to the next, as a means of "political negotiation," which would constitute a "perversion of the constitutional regime."


The magistrates' proposal has received criticism from the associations of progressive judges and the Spanish government.

The coordinator of Judges for Democracy in Catalonia, Carlos Pascual, warned on Wednesday that the magistrates are "overreaching" their authority, because "they are intervening in the political debate."

"It is not rigorous and not appropriate for a high institution of the State to take a position on a project that is in the air and that does not yet exist," Pascual said.

Additionally, the acting minister of defense, Margarita Robles, also criticized the conservative members of the CGPJ, saying that "they are not the most suitable to give constitutional lessons" because they are acting with an expired mandate and, therefore, " they are the first to violate the Constitution."

The mandate for the current members of the General Council of the Judiciary ended in 2018, and as political parties have not been able to find a consensus on their replacement, they have remained in their posts. 

"They should have left a long time ago," Robles said, adding that "they lack a sense of reality."

How appointment of judges' governing body works in Spain

The CGPJ is in charge of appointments, promotions, and transfers of judges, as well as inspecting how courts work and "staunchly safeguarding the independence of the judiciary," protecting it from the other powers. 

Yet, it is the Congress and the Senate, the legislative power, that appoints the members of the CGPJ leadership. Both chambers require three-fifths majorities to appoint a new team when the five-year mandates in CGPJ expire. 

In December 2018, the current members of the governing body reached the end of their terms, but continued since then to hold their posts since the Socialists and the People's Party – essential for the three-fifths majority – had been unable to agree on successors. 

The CGPJ president is also the head of Spain's Supreme Court.