Spanish Senate votes against amnesty law, returning bill to Congress for final approval

Text needs majority to come into force before judges study cases individually

The Spanish Senate
The Spanish Senate / Senate press
Catalan News

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May 14, 2024 02:07 PM

May 14, 2024 03:11 PM

After two months of study in the higher chamber, the Spanish Senate has voted against the amnesty law text. The text will now return to Congress, where lawmakers could lift the veto with an absolute majority or a simple majority on a second vote.

If Congress greenlights the amnesty law—they already passed the text in March with 178 MPs voting in favor—it will then come into effect. Lawmakers have two months maximum to pass the law (until July 14), which could be already included in the plenary sessions on May 30 or June 13.

Once the law has been approved, the Spanish government will submit it to the Spanish Official Gazette, and once published, it will come into force. At that time, it will be judges of those pro-independence related figures who will have to study the judicial cases individually.

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 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.