The Plenary of Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday, July 14, that the lockdowns and some of the measures imposed by the Socialist government of Pedro Sanchez under the state of emergency are unconstitutional.
The court’s ruling is in response to a legal resource filed by the conservative Vox Party leader Santiago Abascal in November 2020 against the Spanish government’s measures because they violated freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.
Although the state of emergency or alert ended on May 9 of this year, the ruling sets important precedents for similar future scenarios.
The final vote was 6 in favor and 5 against, and although the news has been revealed to the press, only when the ruling is officially published will it be possible to assess its scope.
Though the court’s decision favored the legal appeal of the Vox leader, the judges partially accepted the demands of Abascal, who sought to suspend all measures taken by the socialist Sanchez.
According to Europapress, the ruling declared unconstitutional the deprivation of people to circulate freely either on foot or by a vehicle on public roads and the health ministry’s orders that limited the hours and format of commercial, cultural, recreational activities, etc.
The government of Pedro Sanchez declared a state of emergency on March 14, 2020, three days after the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. On October 25, the Socialist extended the quarantine for another six months, and in response, Abascal filed the legal appeal with 51 more parliament members.
For the Vox leader, the government should not have taken these measures by bypassing the national Constitution but stayed within the parameters established by it.
“Only by reaffirming the primacy of the Constitution, as the original manifestation of national sovereignty, will our democracy emerge strengthened from this crisis,” declared Santiago Abascal.
“Accepting that the seriousness of the crisis can allow a derogation—even transitory—of our Constitutional Text would mean an inadmissible democratic degradation that the parliament members signatories of this appeal are not willing to tolerate,” he added.
While the state of alert has ended in Spain, and some restrictions still exist, the court’s ruling could generate a wave of lawsuits from Spaniards who have been fined for leaving their homes unless the judges specify otherwise in their ruling.
In their argument, the six judges who declared the Spanish government’s measures invalid argued that only by declaring a ‘state of exception,’ would the executive then have the power to suspend some basic rights of citizens.
In response to the ruling, the Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, said that her government “will maintain but does not share the decision” on the insufficiency of the declaration of emergency “that saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
“The home confinement rule declared under the state of emergency, together with the exemplary behavior of citizens, allowed us to stop the virus,” Llop said, adding that it was similar to orders given by other European governments.
However, in cases such as New York, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, in full lockdown, the city recorded more than 30,000 deaths due to COVID-19. In contrast, the state of Florida, which lifted the restriction measures much earlier than the other states, recorded fewer infections and fewer deaths than New York.
Therefore, there is no data to support that lockdowns can actually curb the contagion as many government officials have asserted.