The questionable independence of the Spanish justice

>Washington, DC. – The Spanish Constitutional Court (CC) recently ruled on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. This by-law was ratified by the people of Catalonia by referendum in 2006 after a long legal path from the Catalan Parliament to the Spanish Court, the signature of the King of Spain, and finally the Catalan referendum which approved the text following the democratic process to the letter. However, this document has since been watered down by a High Court of questionable legitimacy, influenced by political biases; and believe it or not, this has happened in a supposedly democratic European country: Spain.

There are many reasons to justify why the Constitutional Court in Spain is in an anomalous situation, which raises questions about its legitimacy to rule on the Catalan Statute. Here are a couple of them: a political battle between the two main parties in Spain has blocked the normal process to renew at least three of its twelve members in the last two years (moreover, one who recently died has not been replaced) because of fear of and political interest in the recent ruling. Furthermore, one of the two parties responsible for blocking this renewal — the People’s Party (PP), now in opposition — was also the party which appealed the Statute’s unconstitutionality.

Spain has a very weak judicial system which is influenced by members of government, citizens, and firms. The World Economic Forum periodically releases data reports. Among these documents, there is the Executive Opinion Survey, a major component of The Global Competitiveness Report, which poles around 13,000 business executives worldwide. This survey shows a wide variety of national indicators one of which relates to judicial independence. In the most recent of these surveys, Spain is listed in the 60th place, below other countries like Nigeria (59th), Gambia (41st), Saudi Arabia (34th) or Oman (29th), and just above the Czech Republic and China (!).

The independence of the judiciary is a basic principle of democracy. The judiciary should not be subject to improper influence from other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests, and when this happens, its legitimacy is called into question. The answers of the survey of the World Economic Forum shouldn’t be forgotten by the Spanish legislators. It’s an embarrassment for the country and a reason for Catalan people to disregard the decision on its Statute of Autonomy.


16 comentarios en “The questionable independence of the Spanish justice

  1. >Dear Gus, I agree with the title of the post. Something should be done.In a more concrete side let me share a particular fact about the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia :All in all, roughly 1/3 of the electorate voted for it (the rest either did not vote, >50% people, or voted against, 20% of voters). Following the law, it is a positive referendum, but … is it really the people's will? May be the feeling of "identity obsession" is actually happening and most catalans actually worry about other, more important, things.Symptomatic is the opposition by other catalan regions like Balearic Islands or Valencia.Don't get me wrong, I am all for to preserve and encourage recognition of a catalan feeling, culture, identity… but it makes me sad to see that the Statut actually breaks the solidarity between spanish regions. It is not a debate towards being catalan and spanish, it is a debate towards catalan and not spanish.That's one of the reasons I supported soccer lately, even though I think is stupid. It might be nonesense, but it is one of the few things that unite most spaniards. A little bit of patriotism is much needed.So you don't feel spanish. Am I right? Not a little bit? Not to recognize the value of your education, social welfare, healthcare system, international relations, … sure there's much to work on, but I believe much of your past and PRESENT depends on a spanish identity you refuse. You are standing on spanish shoulders.

  2. >I agree with most of your comments… We need to change many things here so we can have a better Catalunya.But saying that Saudi´s judiciary system is more independent than ours is just a joke… They don´t even have laws other than an extreme interpretation of the Qur´an… Same thing works for Kuwait, where they jailed a guy for criticizing a nephew of the king. I don´t even need to put examples for Thailand, Malasya, Brunei…My friend, with all the respect for the point you´re trying to make, this source you are using here jeopardizes the credibility of the article…Mohammed

  3. >Mohammed, the survey is about how easy is influence in the judiciary, not in what sense. In Saudi Arabia there is a law and in Spain another; the 13,000 answers reveled that the Spanish jusdiciary is hightly influenced (in that case by political pressures). This is the point of the article, and i agree with it.Jordi

  4. >Hola Gus,I am sorry but–as you may imagine–I do not agree. Not because I don't think the Constitutional Court is not politicized–it is–but because I don't think you understand fully the rules of a democracy. Modern liberal democracies are based on the Rule of Law. This means that the Constitution sets the path for the rest of the laws of a country. No law can go against the Constitution. The Spanish Constitution says that the constitutional subject is the "Spanish Nation". If you read Sieyes, Montesquieu, Locke, etc. you will see that this is the key because only the constitutional subject can change the scope or contents of a Constitution. Therefore, if anyone wants to change the Spanish Constitution he/she should advocate for having the National Spanish Parliament to agree–which would entail a national referendum. A law that is under the Constitution cannot change the constitution because it would go against the Rule of Law.In Bolivia, they have done this. They went from a national State to a plurinational State by changing their Constitution. If you, as a Catalan and a defender of democracy, want the independence of Catalonia or to build a plurinational State or anything of the like, advocate for it but through a just and agreed upon process (Catalonians also voted in the referendum that approved the Spanish Constitution, and CiU advocated for the "yes" as you surely remember).The process is paramount in any democracy. If you want to change the rules of the game, change them but do it fairly. Let me put you a football example: let's say team X is playing against team Y. Team X scores in offside and team Y says it is not a valid goal. The referee (the Constitutional Court) says that according to the current rules, the goal is not valid. Team X says that the rules should not be applied because they are unfair rules, the referee is biased and they are playing as locals so most attendants are their supporters. Team Y says that those rules were agreed upon by both teams before the match started. What seems to you, Gustau, to be a just solution to this problem?As Locke said, "wherever law ends, tyranny begins". The Rule of Law was a tool created to control unrestrained executive power–absolutism–and to allow people to live together peacefully–social contract. If you advocate for the tyranny of the (Catalonian)majority regardless of the Rule of Law, you are advocating for an unfair system in which minorities are not protected. And, as far as I know, we are all equal.Un abrazo,Nacho

  5. >Dear Nacho, what Gustau is saying is that the Constitutional Court is playing “unfairly” because of its anomalous and politicize situation—even you accept this point. Under this Court, any decision which affects Catalonia has biases so that who is “not protected” is the subject of the Catalan Statute, so the Catalans. Fix the Constitutional Court, introduce the sense of the Moncloa Agreements (plurinational estate) and then, come back to talk about justice and Rule of Law.

  6. >Dear Gus,As usual, a pleasure to read your blog from far away. I have read this week entry, as well as the comments. Some general ideas.Spanish Justice suffers from a poor performance. International recognized indicators say so, and I don't disagree. So there's a lot of work to be done.Nevertheless, the underlying issue of your entry, is about a different issue. The recent decision of the Constitutional Court on the Catalan Autonomus Law (the 'Estatut').The Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) is a particularly blurred institution in terms of its nature. It is suppodesly an institution of the judiciary, but highly differentiated. In the anglosaxon system, the Supreme Court occupies its role, and it's clearly a judiciary one. In the French system, the Conseil d'Etat, is clearly a non-judiciary one, and the constitutionality control takes place far away from the judiciary branch.The Spanish model, coming from the Austrian-German system is, at best, unclear. But, more than focusing on its actual judiciary nature, my point is that I am afraid that the real judiciary performance in Spain is independent from the outcome of last week. Simply, catalans -or most of them- do not like the decision. This is fine. But, on my opinion, it is independent from the current quality of Justice in Spain. Or, a more positive decision would mean that Justice in Spain is suddenly better? I don't think so.The decision was controversial. And Spain has a problem. 1 million of catalans in a rally in Barcelona means something. The rage and anger within catalan society is true. It does not matter too much the law technicalities when dealing with national feelings. Catalans feel offended in their collective dignity.In my opinion, the Constitutional Court has acted correctly. Its role, in simple words, it's to make a 'cross check'. Take a law (the Estatut now) and check how it fits within the Constitution. The Estatut, it seems, doest not fit too well.Perspectives from Catalonia largely differ. Catalan people, trhough its parlament, voted a Estatut, with a vast majority. That Estatut was already sent to Spain's Central Parliament, and 'adequated' to fit within the Spanish constitution limits. Many in Catalonia opposed this mandatory "diet", but at last, accepted it as a necessary step in closing the process. Catalonia had expressed their will, and somehow, Spain had accommodated it to fit within Spain. Now, three years later, an outside institution, comes to sharply cut and reduce the outreach of the Estatut. Anger grows.This is an institutional problem. In my opinion, the Court has acted correctly, but reality is far too many steps ahead. A national reality in Catalonia exists. It does not matter too much what history or law says. National identity occurs within a people, and there's no objective means to capture it, but yet, it exist. Catalan nationalism has succeeded in creating the idea of a Catalan nation. Spanish nationalists try hard to stop that. They know history could have been different, but it has not. Even the Basques, who were apparently more fierce on their fight, seem now defeated. Basque nationalism did not suceed in creating a Basque Nation, as such option is still regarded as "a" political option in the Basque Country, but not as a political reality. In Catalonia, by contrast, most people and political parties agree in the nationhood of Catalonia. How Spain, as a whole, can be capable of dealing with that, is still a mistery. What it is increasingly not a mystery anymore is that using the institutional framework -like the Consitutional Court- as a final barrier is simply, not a solution.Regards from LimaFJU

  7. >JA – fixing the Constitutional Court has nothing to do with the need to respect the rules of the game. FJU – law does matter. It is law or anarchy, there is no middle ground. I agree with you about the need to find a solution and respect the feelings of Catalans but my argument is that that solution has to come through the appropriate legal channels. Otherwise it will create more resentment, anger and violence. un abrazo para el limeño.Nacho

  8. >Todo este debate me aburre soberanamente…Mirad, es un hecho que el TC está politizado, pero además enormemente!!! Los medios califican a los magistrados de conservadores o progresistas según quién los coloque… es que nadie lee la prensa??!!!La actuación del tribunal es patética y da muy mal ejemplo al mundo: ¿4 años para decir lo que ha dicho? un miembro muerto, otros en prórroga porque no se cumplen las renovaciones estipuladas… vamos hombre!!! Es de risa!!!Nos llenamos la boca hablando de democracia, de unión o independencia, y de legitimidades en cuanto a referendums y demás… y no atendemos a lo que dice el artículo de Gus: LA JUSTICIA ESPAÑOLA ES PA-TE-TI-CA. Es más, España es patética… lleva siglos siéndolo!!! Leamos un libro de historia y a ver qué conclusiones sacamos. Esto es un pez que se muerde la boca!!!Alguien aquí habla de solidaridad… bien, esta semana cuando para hacer 85 kilómetros pague 10 u 11 euros en peajes te contaré lo que es la solidaridad, si quieres te vienes conmigo y vamos por carretera nacional, a ver qué te parece la solidaridad que tuvo el MOPU con Catalunya. Te digo lo de la nacional por si me sales con La Caixa y la Generalitat… Yo hablo de FOMENTO, o lo que antes era el MOPU… ¿¿¿Qué hizo el MOPU en Catalunya???Y por cierto, ¿¿la Constitución está al servicio de los españoles o estamos los españoles al servicio de la Constitución?? ¿¿¿Es que la Constitución es DIOS??? Si está desfasada y una región de la importancia estratégica de Catalunya solicita cambios… pues hay que hacer algo, como mínimo debatirlo. Es poco inteligente anclarse en el inmovilismo… a mi entender, claro!!¿¿Por qué el PP recurre al TC artículos del Estatut que ha aprobado en primera persona en comunidades en las que gobierna??Lo peor de todo es que seguimos ciegos, salen 1.100.000 personas a manifestarse en Barcelona y no le damos la menor importancia… son cuatro gatos, ¿verdad? Es triste y es parte de los muchos problemas históricos sin solucionar en España.El problema del País Vasco y Catalunya, a mi entender, es no sentirse queridos ni valorados por España, y cuando uno es puta y paga la bebida lo normal es que tenga ganas de mandar al putero a tomar viento. Hace siglos que pasa…Un saludo y a seguir discutiendo tonterías para mantenerse ciego.O.

  9. >Jordi, as i said, i agree with Gustau regarding how bad our system is. However, with all due respect, the report he´s using as a benchmark is a joke.In Saudi or any other country in the Gulf (they are mostly ahead of Spain in the report), if you are a member of the Royal family or if you are simply a local, you don´t influence the justice, you are simply the justice my friend. Trust me, i know.Regards,Mohammed

  10. >@ Mohamend, No es tracta de qui influeix, sinó del nivell d'influència. A Espanya, la capacitat d'influència del govern és lamentable, igual que a l'Arabia Saudita. Si es perquè ets membre de la reialesa o perquè tens pasta, o (com passa a Espanya) per motius polítics, es indiferent en el punt en el qual ens centrem. A l'Arabia Saudita és més escandalós per motius diversos, principalment de falta de respecte als drets humans més bàsics; a Espanya ho és per motius polítics. Aquest és el punt: el de la capacitat d'influenciar la justícia.No desacreditis una enquesta de 13,000 empresaris arreu del món. Són ells els quals, amb les seves respostes, han fet el rànking. En comptes de dir que es un "joke", pensa perquè tenen aquesta sensació. No crec que el WEF tingui ganes de fotre la justícia espanyola… la mostra és prou significativa.

  11. >1. Estoy contigo en que es una vergüenza que no se haya dado una renovación de los miembros del Tribunal, pero que la maquinaria sea defectuosa, no quiere decir que el producto haya salido defectuoso. La Sentencia no es contraria a la Constitucion. Sí es contraria a las ansias de autogobierno de Cataluña. 2. Recordemos que el máximo órgano responsable, y el que cuida que toda ley , reglamento o decreto está en el marco delimitado por la Constitución, es el Tribunal Constitucional, ni el Parlamento, ni el refrendo del Rey, ni el Parlament Catalan. Me pregunto porqué nunca antes se ha dudado de esta potestad, que lleva vigente 30 años, y ahora que a algunos se les ha dado la contraria, parece absolutamente ilógica, hasta injusta. 3. Recalcas otra vez, que el PP es “juez y parte”, pero el PP impugno 114 articulos de los 223 del Estatut: solo han sido tomados como inconstitucionales 14, mas el termino “nación” del preámbulo, que no lo toma como inconstitucional, pero le quita su valor jurídico. Me parece absolutamente perfecta la medida: respeta el sentimiento nacional de ciertas regiones, pero reconoce como nación jurídica la española… y esto no es cuestión de Sentencias, esto es cuestión de Ley Constitucional. Mas clarito agua. Y esto, en 30 años no ha cambiado nada… o sea que no me venga ahora Duran con historias. 4. Y por último, poner como prueba de la imparcialidad del Tribunal Constitucional, la opinión de ejecutivos de empresas en el marco del Informe de Competitividad Mundial, me parece que no tiene mucho sentido. Será indicativo para percibir el mal estado de nuestro sistema jurídico en el marco empresarial, que puede ser extensible a otros muchos escenarios de la vida cotidiana, pero que lo veas como un claro reflejo de la realidad del Tribunal Constitucional, de un tema tan absolutamente especifico, y actividad tan puntual, pues sinceramente, no creo que tiene mucho sentido. Y ojo, que reitero mi disconformidad con las dinámicas actuales del TC, pero no veo lógico que tomes como prueba ese Informe.

  12. >It is funny how this lad complaints about the Spanish Justice and does not even comment about the plan the nazional-socialist Catalan Government has with respect to a Catalan ran Justice. The nazi onalist-socialist running Cataluña are involved in all kinds of robberies to the citizens (Palau de la Musica 35 million euros!)and they want to have their own controlled justice in order to go on with their dictatorship. Read more about this in

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