Following penal code amendments, the Spanish Supreme Court dropped the sedition charges against ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont for his role in the 2017 secession attempt. A sentence for sedition charges ranges between nine and 15 years. The new ruling also frees five other separatists (Antonio Comin, Lluis Puig, Clara Ponsatí and Marta Rovira) from sedition charges. All the five individuals – now living in self-imposed exile – would still face other charges upon return to Spain. Puigdemont still faces charges for disobedience and embezzlement in Spain. Before issuing a European arrest warrant, the Supreme Court is waiting for the European Union’s Court of Justice (CJEU) decision on the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, due to their roles as Members of European Parliament. The CJEU has already ruled in favor of the extradition to Spain, but the arrest warrants should not infringe the fundamental rights of the person.
A Constitutional Court ruling has prevented the upper house from debating an amendment to Spain’s penal code on the appointment of judges to judicial bodies, aimed at reducing political stalemate around the procedure. The appeal was brought to the court by the main opposition party, the Popular Party, and represents the first time the Constitutional Court reviews pending legislation since Spain’s 1978 democratic transition (as opposed to legislation that has already been passed). Prime Minister Sánchez accused the Popular Party of effectively paralysing the Parliament. The reform was passed with a solid majority in the lower house, yet the discussion around it has been contributing to political polarisation. The terms of four Constitutional Court judges have expired, three of whom are conservative-leaning, and the bill would ready the way for the government’s nominees to replace them. The reforms would also reduce the maximum sentence for crimes of sedition from 15 to 5 years.
Electoral reforms were approved this month, designed to make it easier for Spanish citizens living abroad to vote. The amendments lift the requirement to request to receive a ballot (these are now sent to all registered voters). The changes also enable downloading of the ballot electronically, and extend the permitted time for submission of the completed ballot. In Spain’s four most recent elections less than 10 per cent of voters abroad requested a ballot, according to official data, and even fewer completed the steps necessary to cast their votes. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the reforms protect the rights of voters living abroad to participate in elections and cast their votes.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Spain violated the political rights of Catalan leaders by suspending them from public service before they were convicted for their participation in the 2017 independence referendum. While the decision is not binding, it sends a strong signal with regard to the suspension of elected officials.