defending rights and civil liberties


Judicial Reform

* Video: interview with Joaquim Bosch, spokesperson of Jueces para Democracia on the judicial reform proposed by the government. (sp)

* RIS Blog. "The governments reforms concerning the justice system undermine the rule of law" (sp)

Post in Alrevés y Al Derecho: "Denying Montesquieu (on the separation of powers and judicial independence)" (sp)

* Post in Contrapoder: "The new universal jurisdiction reform "made in Spain" (sp)

* Joint Statement: the proposed Bill limits Spanish Jurisdiction over International Crimes and Would Breach Key International Treaties

Removing approximately 1,200 substitute judge positions has drastically reduced the Judicial power’s workforce. In this manner the government has deliberately weakened and reduced citizen’s abilities to seek justice. The Organic Law of the Judiciary reform highlights the distrust government holds for the country’s judges, further evidenced by constant criticism of certain rulings (i.e., those which rendered fines imposed by the government on protesters void, or those which ruled that protests outside politicians’ residences were a legitimate right to peaceful assembly, enshrined in the Constitution).

In cases of political corruption, prosecutors and judges have solicited greater means and more resources with which to effectively investigate cases in a timely manner. In labour cases (concerning dismissals, wage claims, pensions, unemployment benefits or compensation), the waiting time to come to trial stretches between one and four years (i.e., by 2018). In contentious cases, waiting time for trial is around a year and a half. Judges have complained about a total collapse of justice, citing that they simply cannot cope. However, the government saw fit to abolish 1,200 substitute judges’ positions alleging that they were unnecessary.

In order to stop judges from complaining and criticizing certain government decisions the latter seeks to place a muzzle on them too, restricting the right to freedom of expression and participation in public life for judges, and prosecutors, as well as their associations.

The reform also affects Universal Justice, in other words, the investigation and punishment by Spanish courts of serious international crimes committed outside Spain. Spanish courts will not be able to investigate crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, even if there are Spanish victims. However, the consensus of the international community is very clear: these crimes deeply shock the conscience of humanity and should not go unpunished; it is the duty of every state to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

In cases, like the proceedings against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Spain had become somewhat of a role model. However, the diplomatic conflict with several states, including Israel following its bombing of Al Daraj neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip, led to the 2009 law reform by the socialist government which limited universal jurisdiction. From that point on, investigation of cases would only be allowed if and when: the accused found themselves in Spain (something which is complicated when dealing with international crimes); one of the victims was a Spanish citizen, or; if there existed "a relevant link to Spain." All this provided that no other country or international tribunal was investigating the crimes at that moment in time.  

In 2014, the Popular Party has gone far beyond. The Spanish government, following diplomatic tensions with Chinese authorities over the advancement of the Tibet genocide case, sought to get-rid of universal jurisdiction. Rushed through parliament, the new law includes a list of strict requirements that will effectively tie the hands of Spanish judges and which requires closing all open cases, including the murder of Spanish cameraman José Couso and the assassinations of Spanish priests in Rwanda and Jesuit priests in El Salvador, etc.