Society 16/07/2021

High Court authorises curfew in Catalonia for a week

Magistrates also make clear that Constitutional Court ruling on state of alarm may prevent its extension

3 min
The hospitality and nightlife sector had already closed tonight at 00.30 hours based on the first set of restrictions of the Generalitat authorized by the court

BarcelonaCatalonia will again be under curfew, at least for a few days. Catalonia's High Court validated the Generalitat's request for a curfew between 1.00 h and 6.00 h in 161 municipalities in Catalonia. The Prosecutor's Office has not opposed the restrictions and the court has also chosen to authorise it, taking into account the "terrible" cumulative incidence data in recent weeks, which has caused even the European Union to advise against entering or leaving Catalonia. The measure will come into force when it is published in the Official Journal of the Generalitat (DOGC) -predictably this afternoon-, but High Court already stated the curfew would only be valid for a week, because the Constitutional Court's ruling declaring the first state of alarm void means the measure is non-extendable

As at the moment the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court is not yet in force, the magistrates have ignored it and simply approved the curfew the Generalitat proposed. The justification lies in the exponential growth of contagion, "which could continue to worsen". The magistrates explain that, taking into account the accumulated incidence, they can do no more than validate the restrictions. The criterion applied by the court is that the selective curfew by municipalities involves a "limitation" of the right of free movement for a few hours, but not its total suspension

In fact, tonight bars, restaurants and nightlife venues have already had to cose at 00.30 h, after the Government advanced its closing hours as part of a battery of restrictions to try to curb the explosion in contagions in recent weeks. Within these new restrictions there is also a limitation of meetings to a maximum of 10 people, which the High Court had previously validated. The Superior Prosecutor's Office of Catalonia has not opposed any of the measures proposed so far by the Government to contain the virus and considers that all have been "efective" and "proportionate".

Criticism of the Government's "indulgence"

Although the Court so far had chosen only to validate restrictions based solely on the epidemiological indicators provided by the Generalitat, this time the magistrates have not spared any criticism of the government's management of the pandemic in recent weeks. The resolution concludes that the current wave of contagions has to do with an increase in citizens' social interaction, but also with the "omission" of control measures by "all" administrations. In this sense, magistrates criticise that until now the Government has been "tolerant" and even "indulgent" in allowing some activities and behaviours -the resolution does not specify which-, but now it is forced to apply for the application of a curfew.

Even so, the magistrates remind the executive that since July they have given the green light to all measures to curb the pandemic, something that the court already "predicts" that may change in the coming weeks, when the curfew will have to renewed. This is the aftermath of the Constitutional Court overturning the first state of alarm. The reasoning behind the high court's ruling is not yet clear, but it is known that the magistrates have declared the lock down from March to June 2020 unconstitutional. It considers that such a restrictive measure should have been carried out through a state of emergency and not a state of alarm. Be that as it may, High Court is clear that the publication of the sentence will affect its resolutions from now on about curfew or any restriction that has to do with lockdowns, since it must adopt the criteria of its hierarchical superior.

In this sense, magistrates also take a jab at the Generalitat, remind them that, although the curfew they propose is limited to 161 municipalities, "it is no secret" that when it comes down to it, the measure affects most of the population of Catalonia, just as, although at the moment the night confinement has only been requested for a week, it is also "no secret" that the government's publicised intention is to apply it for "two or three weeks more". That is why the magistrates let hint that their endorsement of the measure could change when it comes to validating the extensions of the curfew; it will all depend on the Constitutional Court's reasoning for overturning the first state of alarm.