Spain’s first Covid lockdown was unconstitutional, court rules

Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court in Madrid. Image: Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court has ruled that Spain’s first Covid-19 lockdown was unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court in Madrid has ruled that a state of alarm, which included a strict home confinement and extensive travel restrictions to combat the first wave of Covid last year, was unconstitutional.

Introduced in March 2020, the state of alarm allowed the government to temporarily suspend civil liberties, confining almost all Spaniards to their homes, shutting schools, businesses and industries.

By a margin of just one vote, the court ruled on July 14 that the move was unconstitutional. As a result, all fines incurred for breaking the rules of the alarm will be dropped although the court was careful to limit any exposure the government might face to compensation claims.

“Citizens have a legal duty to bear the material damages they suffered,” the court’s resolution stated.

The court also argued that to enact the measures they did, the government should have introduced a state of emergency, which has more sweeping powers than a state of alarm. However, the state of emergency poses a severe threat to freedoms allowing police to detain people for up to 10 days instead of three, enter homes and business premises by force, and to shut media outlets.

The case was brought to the court by Vox, who are claiming the ruling as a major victory.

“The largest violation of rights in history was unconstitutional. Only Vox voted against. Only Vox appealed to the Constitutional Court to defend the rights and freedoms of the Spanish,” tweeted Vox’s leader Santiago Abascal.

The General Secretary of the Partido Popular (PP), Teodoro Garcia Egea, also said his party had warned the state of alarm was on thin legal ground.

“Pablo Casado warned it and the Constitutional Court confirms it. The state of alarm was unconstitutional and the autonomous communities do not know what to apply now to fight against the virus. The legal response to the pandemic has been a complete failure for the Government,” he tweeted.

The PP however voted in favour of the state alarm and refused to join Vox in bringing the case to the Constitutional Court.

The government, which has yet to formally respond to the ruling, is livid at the outcome, according to Spanish media reports.

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Deirdre Tynan

Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.


    • Pablo

      14 July 2021 • 18:19

      Having received and paid a fine of 601€ for the heinous crime of buying food in the wrong supermarket in April 2020, I will be very keen to hear how the government will reimburse me.

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