Spain’s upper house admits amnesty bill for processing

Conservative-run Senate has until May 16 to vote on draft law

The Spanish Senate
The Spanish Senate / Senate press

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

March 19, 2024 06:09 PM

March 19, 2024 08:31 PM

On Tuesday, the Spanish upper house, the Senate, admitted the amnesty bill for processing.

The Senate, where the conservative People’s Party (PP) has an absolute majority, now has two months, until May 16 to vote on the bill.

There are two possible outcomes: the PP could decide to add amendments to the draft law, or it could veto the bill altogether.c

Conflict between chambers

PP senator Alicia García announced on Tuesday that the Senate will activate the necessary mechanisms to raise what the law of the Constitutional Court (TC) calls "conflict between constitutional bodies." 

According to the PP, this aims to resolve the clash of powers between Congress and the Senate due to the amnesty law. 

"The PP will propose that this chamber, in defense of its powers, formally urge Congress to withdraw the amnesty law for being a covert reform of the Constitution," García said. 

Spain's Presidency Minister, Félix Bolaños, said he did not believe that the conflict between chambers will lead to anything and described the maneuver as "pure artifice." 

Congress approval

On March 14, the bill was passed in Congress by a slim majority, 178 votes to 172, with the support of the Socialists, their coalition partners Sumar, the two Catalan pro-independence parties, Basque parties Bildu and PNV, and the Galician party BNG.

The conservative People's Party (PP), far-right Vox, and two smaller parties, the UPN and the CC, voted against the bill.

More guarantees for Puigdemont

After Junts voted against the previous draft text, Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, agreed to make changes to provide additional guarantees for Catalan independence supporters, not least former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont is set to be one of the beneficiaries of the amnesty, having lived in exile in Belgium since the independence push of 2017 and is currently under investigation for terrorism.

On March 7, Congress' Justice Committee approved the new amnesty draft bill with 20 votes in favor and 14 against, paving the way for its return to Congress.

The most significant change in the text is that terrorism crimes will be adapted to the European standard and not to Spanish law, thus giving more protection to Puigdemont and others accused of terrorism.

The current version of the bill states that only "intentional serious violations of human rights, in particular those regulated by Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and International Humanitarian Law" will be excluded from the amnesty.

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.