Spain Approves Amnesty Law for Catalonian Separatists

Law and justice of Spain concept with a 3d rendering of a gavel on a wooden desktop and the Spanish flag on background.

Spain’s Congress has passed the government’s contentious Catalan amnesty bill to halt ongoing judicial proceedings against Catalan nationalists for separatist actions, such as a 2017 referendum and unsuccessful independence attempt. 

With 177 legislators in support and 172 against, the measure was approved by a razor-thin margin. Since its introduction by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE), the amnesty measure has been debated in parliament for six months. 

The measure passed in a preliminary vote in March and then made its way to the Senate, which was controlled by the opposition. The Senate managed to delay the bill’s approval but couldn’t stop it completely. After its publication in the official gazette, judges will have two months to consider and implement the new law.

It is believed that 400 Catalan nationalists who have been subject to judicial proceedings since November 2011 would benefit from the amnesty. A large number of them were complicit in 2017’s unlawful independence referendum. Aside from protecting citizens, the measure will help the police who have been under investigation for assaulting referendum goers. 

The separatists’ legal dilemma will not be solved just yet, even when the amnesty measure is passed. Legal challenges are inevitable, and higher courts will evaluate the statute. Additionally, courts must apply it case-by-case. Because it will unfairly benefit some Spanish citizens at the expense of others, several legal scholars have cast doubt on its validity.

The most prominent and divisive recipient, meanwhile, is Carles Puigdemont, the ex-president of Catalonia who spearheaded the independence movement in 2017 and then went into self-exile in Belgium. 

In return for Mr. Sánchez’s legislative backing for his coalition administration, his JxCat party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) requested amnesty.

Sánchez said the amnesty is essential to ending the process of decreasing tensions in northeast Catalonia, where he has concentrated his efforts. Vox and the Popular Party have spearheaded protests opposing the amnesty in Madrid and other cities around the nation. 

Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the head of the Popular Party, attempted to humiliate the Socialists for approving the amnesty in return for the “seven votes” that Puigdemont’s party needs to maintain its control.