Catalan Exiles Return To Spain Possible

Carles Puigdemont in Brussels June 10, 2024 Credit: Carles Puigdemont

Today , June 11 2024, has become a very significant day in Spain, as Spain’s Official Gazette officially published the long-awaited amnesty law.

This momentous occasion signals a pivotal moment in the nation’s legal framework, particularly for members of Catalan independence. With the law now in effect, attention naturally shifts towards its practical application and the ensuing impact on ongoing legal proceedings. This decision also comes days after the European elections resulted in a loss for Pedro Sánchez’s party the PSOE, who were beaten by Partido Popular (PP) by an amount of 3.99 per cent.

Spotlight on judiciary

The spotlight now falls on the judiciary, tasked with the weighty responsibility of adjudicating cases linked to the Catalan independence movement. Their pivotal role involves deliberating on whether to extend the provisions of the amnesty law to relevant individuals. However, navigating this process is no simple task.

Among the prominent figures set to benefit from this measure is Carles Puigdemont, the former president of Catalonia, whose leadership spearheaded the 2017 secession attempt, leading him into self-imposed exile in Belgium. For Puigdemont and others involved in the Catalan movement, the amnesty represents a potential pathway for their return to Spain, amidst a backdrop of intense judicial scrutiny.

Former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont

Should Puigdemont be absolved?

In January of this year, Judge Manuel García Castellón stated that Puigdemont should not be absolved of his charges due to the amnesty law. Judge Castellón believed that Puigdemont had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights due to his link to the protests in Barcelona in 2019, after the jailing of Catalonian separatist leaders. However, this proved unsuccessful, allowing Puigdemont to benefit from today’s law.

Despite overcoming administrative hurdles domestically, the legality of the amnesty law may face scrutiny in European courts. It is anticipated that certain judges may raise questions regarding its compatibility with European legislation, possibly resulting in delays and complications. Such deliberations could prolong legal proceedings and introduce additional layers of complexity to an already contentious issue.

Support for Amnesty Law not universal

Resistance to the amnesty law extends beyond public discourse, manifesting in organized opposition within the judiciary itself. The Civic Platform for Judicial Independence, comprising judges opposed to the law, has been actively engaged in challenging its implementation. Their efforts include circulating a comprehensive handbook aimed at impeding the law’s application, distributed among Spanish judicial circles.

Central to the debate surrounding the amnesty law is the question of who stands to benefit from its provisions. The law extends pardons to individuals associated with the Catalan independence movement, encompassing those under investigation, facing accusations, or charged with various offenses. Notable figures such as exiled former president Carles Puigdemont and his former vice president Oriol Junqueras, instrumental in orchestrating the 2019 referendum, are among those potentially impacted.

Determining the precise scope of the amnesty law’s impact presents challenges due to varying projections. While initial estimates suggested approximately 1,500 individuals could benefit, uncertainty looms over the final count. The revised iteration of the law, extending coverage back to November 2011, is anticipated to broaden its reach, potentially encompassing an additional 150 to 200 individuals compared to the original proposal.

Judges are granted a two-month window to meticulously evaluate each case, considering the intricate legal ramifications and potential challenges that may arise. This could mean that we have not heard the end of this amnesty law, but we will have to wait and see how it is received by the Spanish judicial system.

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Written by

Darryl Kelly

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