Politics 06/09/2021

Supreme Court president criticises pardon of political prisoners: "The action of justice is not an obstacle to coexistence".

Carlos Lesmes blames Sánchez and Casado for not renewing the judiciary's General Council

4 min
Felipe VI presides the opening ceremony of the judicial year, along with the president of the CGPJ, Carlos Lesmes, and the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop

MadridCarlos Lesmes, the president of the Supreme Court, has been very critical of Pedro Sánchez over the pardon of political prisoners. In his speech at the opening of the judicial year, he has accused the Spanish government of "questioning" judicial independence when it granted the measure of grace to pro-independence leaders arguing that it helped coexistence. "Concord has even been set against resentment to explain this leniency, as if the court's action to apply the law which we must all obey were an obstacle to coexistence or obeyed different reasons from the ones foreseen in the rules," said the president of the General Council of the Judiciary. Lesmes has started his speech talking about judicial independence and has regretted that "from some political instances" this is set aside when judicial decisions "opposed to their designs hinder their strategies or they simply do not like them".

Lesmes has claimed that the role of judges "does not correspond in any way with the idea of revenge or with the feeling of rancour". Contradicting the justification that Sánchez gave to the pardons, he replies: "Justice is not, nor has it ever been, an obstacle to peace, but the fundamental instrument to safeguard the legal order and, therefore, the peaceful coexistence between citizens". Thus, the president of the Supreme Court has vindicated the ruling against the referendum and the role of High Court magistrates "for their defense of the constitutional order and our democracy". "Respect for the Law involves, inexcusably, respect for the judicial decision," Lesmes stressed, addressing Felipe VI directly, who is presiding over the event. The third chamber of the Supreme Court has yet to resolve appeals by the PP, Vox and Cs against the pardons.

Before the measure of grace arrived, however, the "social climate" in Catalonia had already cooled down, according to the attorney general of the State, Dolores Delgado. In her presentation of the annual report by the Prosecutor's Office, he explained that Barcelona's Prosecutor's Office has recorded a fall in 62% of cases of hate crimes for ideological grounds. "The decline is explained by the cooling of the political climate and the social tension that was experienced in Catalonia in 2017 and 2018," Delgado said.

Attacks against Sánchez and Casado

In his speech, the president of the judiciary's General Council has also referred to the "abnormal situation" that the body that governs judges is going through, its mandate having expired 1,000 days ago. Although Unidas Podemos suggested that he resign to facilitate a solution, Lesmes has only blamed the parties, especially the leader of the opposition, Pablo Casado. "The duty that emanates from the Constitution itself cannot be subordinated in terms of compliance to reasons of political opportunity, whatever they may be, because there is no better way to defend the constitution than to seek compliance," he said, aligning himself with one of the arguments that the PSOE uses to criticise the PP. He has also reminded PSOE and Unidas Podemos them that the "necessary renovation does not result from the change of composition of the chambers, as some argue, but exclusively from the end of the term established in the Constitution".

Lesmes admits that it is "weakening the legitimate constitutional function of the organ" as a result of the long period of blockade and the reform of the organic law of the Judiciary that limited its powers while in office. By way of urgency, Congress withdrew the power to make appointments, in a decision that did not have the prior hearing of the same CGPJ, the Venice Commission and the judicial associations, as the governing body of judges had demanded. "All requests were disregarded," lamented Lesmes,

If in his 2019 speech he already assured that the situation of the CGPJ constituted a "gave anomaly", this time he has assumed that "the anormal prolongation" will continue despite the continuous "cries" to renew the institution. In addition, in 2021 the appointment for opening of the judicial year comes "with great controversy", has stressed. "It is urgent, for everybody's sake, that our institution disappears from the scene of partisan struggle and that the political forces concerned, with constitutional patriotism and generosity, achieve in the coming weeks the necessary agreement for the renewal", Lesmes has begged.

Even so, in the subsequent statements it has been shown that the differences continue. The Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, has warned the PP that "there is no greater politicisation of justice than blocking the renewal of the CGPJ", and will seek to renew the body and then address the debate on the possible reform of the law governing the institution. In turn, the PP's secretary of Justice, Enrique López, has insisted that Europe is asking that the judges which form the body be elected by judges themselves.

Juan Carlos I and the appointment of Delgado

The pardons and judiciary's Genera Council have marked the speeches, whereas there has been no mention of the investigations by the Public Prosecutor's Office into the allegedly corrupt activities of former king Juan Carlos I, which provoked a clash between the Public Prosecutor's Office and his defence last Friday, as a result of revelations by newspaper El Mundo. In the 1,880 pages of the annual report by the Prosecutor's Office that Delgado delivered to Felipe VI just Friday, there is only a brief mention that the Supreme Prosecutor's Office is investigating the former king.

Pending whether the public prosecutor's office decides to push charges, there is a date for a momentous hearing. On October 19, the fourth section of the third chamber of the Supreme Court is scheduled to deliberate on the resources that the PP and Vox presented against the appointment of Delgado as attorney general of the State.