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Top court in Spain rules country’s lockdown is unconstitutional


In early 2020, under a state of emergency, the government of Spain issued a strict and repressive lockdown supposedly to combat the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). On Wednesday, July 14, the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled that that lockdown was unconstitutional.

The court said the lockdown provisions that ordered Spain’s population off the streets except for unavoidable work commutes, short and necessary shopping trips and other essential travel was a violation of the Spanish Constitution.

The Constitutional Court came to this ruling after just two meetings between the judges. The conservative bloc within the court argued that the state of emergency enacted by the government last year not only imposed limitations on the fundamental rights of free movement and assembly between private citizens, but it suspended this right altogether.

In a brief statement broadcast by state-owned media outlet TVE, the court described how the vote on the ruling was split almost evenly down the middle. Six judges voted in favor and five voted against it.

According to TVE, the majority in the Constitutional Court ruled that there are certain circumstances when the Spanish government can temporarily take away the fundamental rights of Spanish citizens, including the freedoms of movement and assembly. But the government’s state of emergency has no mechanism to do this and to limit movement and assembly during a state of emergency is therefore unconstitutional.

A stronger state of emergency, known as a state of exception, is necessary to uphold the limitations on people’s movement.

Leftist Spanish government reacts negatively to court ruling

The left-wing coalition government of Spain, led by Socialist Party Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reacted negatively to the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

A government spokesperson said the prime minister and his cabinet respect the Constitutional Court’s ruling but was surprised by its “unprecedented nature.” It added that the state of emergency and the limitations on the freedom of movement were “absolutely essential to save lives.”

Justice Minister Pilar Llop said that the government “will uphold but does not share the decision.” She added that the state of emergency “saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

“The home confinement rule declared under the state of emergency, along with the exemplary behavior of citizens, allowed us to stop the virus,” said Llop. She added that many other European governments issued similar orders. (Related: Spain proposes “national security law” to allow government seizure of private property during any declared health “crisis.”)

A government spokesperson sustained that, without the state of emergency, the country would not have had enough time to stop the coronavirus “and it wouldn’t have been possible to maintain the necessary measures to stop its spread for more than a 60-day period.”

Sanchez’s government continues to assert that the state of emergency was “in line with the constitution” and the organic law that covers states of emergencies.

The Constitutional Court made its ruling in response to a lawsuit brought to it by Vox, a Spanish conservative political party. In response to the ruling, Vox leader Santiago Abascal called for socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to resign.

“We cannot celebrate the decision because we have proof that the government was willing to break the law and tarnish the constitution,” said Abascal.

A spokesperson from the government pointed out that Vox voted in favor of the state of emergency when it was presented for the first time by the government to parliament last year.

The state of emergency was declared on March 14, 2020, three days after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Sanchez’s coalition government was able to win support from the conservatives, including from Vox party legislators, to pass the state of emergency.

But after the first six weeks of the lockdown, Vox withdrew its support after many Spaniards complained about not being able to go out even just to exercise.

Learn more about the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain and other parts of the world by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.

Sources include:

TimesUnion.com

English.ElPais.com

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