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Judges denounce Spanish government ‘interference’ in judiciary

Association of Judges for Democracy calls executive’s attempts to influence court decisions “unacceptable”

 

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06 February 2018 12:19 PM

by

ACN | Madrid

An association of Spanish judges has denounced “interference” by the Spanish government in the judiciary, including Spain’s Constitutional Court. The claim made by the Association of Judges for Democracy in a public statement accused the Spanish government of “interfering” in the court’s decision on Catalonia and its push for independence. According to the association, the “interference” of the Spanish government in judicial issues is “unacceptable.”

Judges in Spain are not allowed to join unions. However, they can be members of their own associations, through which they aim to protect their rights and working conditions. Currently, there are five judges’ associations, and 54% of judges in Spain are members of one of them. The Association of Judges for Democracy has the third largest membership, of around 500 judges.

Examples of “political interference” in the judiciary

The association cited two examples to show what they consider “political interference.” They denounced the justice minister’s recent statement claiming that Catalan leaders might be barred from holding public office before their trials for sedition and rebellion start. Yet, the judges association maintains that the justice minister’s statements are not “respectful of the separation of powers and judicial independence.”

The statement also refers to a Spanish newspaper report that members of the central government contacted judges in Spain’s Constitutional Court before they made a decision on the legality of Carles Puigdemont’s bid to be Catalan president. They point out that this is “unacceptable”.

  • “These contacts are not acceptable in a country subject to the rule of law, and they have no other aim than to interfere in the decision”

    Association of Judges for Democracy 

The association stressed that Spain’s Constitutional Court is “the ultimate interpreter of the Spanish Constitution and that its judges are independent.” “These contacts are not acceptable in a country subject to the rule of law, and they have no other aim than to interfere in the decision,” they stated. "In a state subject to the rule of law, respect for the role of the Constitutional Court is mandatory, starting with the government itself," said the association.

Criticism of the body overseeing the judiciary

The Association of Judges for Democracy also criticized the General Council of the Judiciary, the body that oversees the Spanish legal system, for remaining silent in the face of “political interference” in the judiciary. In the statement, they point out that the aim of the General Council of the Judiciary is to “defend the independence of judges.”

What’s more, the association says that Spain is the third European country in which a higher percentage of people do not believe that the judiciary is independent due to "government interference". Citing an annual EU report, they said that “political interference” in the Spanish judiciary affects the public confidence in courts and judges.

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  • The building of Spain's Supreme Court, based in Madrid (by ACN)