Citizens’ platform Amnistia i Llibertat [Amnesty and Freedom] announced on Thursday that they intend to promote an amnesty bill to be put through the Spanish parliament. The announcement came at an event held in Ateneu Barcelonès with former Catalan minister Carles Mundó —convicted over the 2017 independence bid— in attendance. Also present were ERC MP Josep Maria Jové, who is being probed by Catalonia’s High Court of Justice and faces charges for helping to stage the 2017 independence vote. The platform intends for the petition to kick off right away.
Joan Queralt, one of the jurists who have drafted the bill, explained that the amnesty would be applicable to any crimes committed between 2013 and whenever the bill is turned into law. Queralt emphasised that this is an important detail, as they also aim for the amnesty to include anyone convicted over the November 2014 non-binding independence vote, such as former Catalan president Artur Mas. The amnesty law would benefit everyone who has been found guilty of crimes to do with Catalonia’s independence bid, not just the political prisoners.
Joan Queralt was very critical of Madrid’s actions and specifically referred to the Supreme Court verdict in the case against the Catalan political leaders who staged the 2017 independence referendum: “If a student of mine submitted such a poor sentence, they would get an E, it is so bad”. The platform realises that its plan is a tall order, as not one of the five main Spanish political parties supports the idea of a general pardon (Podemos does not oppose it, but they prefer to explore other less complex avenues). Queralt warned that, no matter how successful the petition and the bill are, the political parties will need to show “a willingness” for the platform’s undertaking to bear fruit. Gemma Ubasart, the political scientist and former Podemos leader in Catalonia, also spoke at the event to say that such a bill could be passed in parliament, but that it will require “painstaking work”. She added that “this must be approached as a long-term goal, but I am feeling optimistic”. She also spoke in favour of helping the convicted leaders by other means, such as an official pardon or amending Spain’s criminal code. Political Scientists Sònia Andolz advised the Catalan and Spanish governments to engage in talks as a first step towards a future amnesty: “First they should agree on a shared analysis of the roots of the conflict”.
The right to petition
Susanna Pagès, Amnistia i Llibertat’s spokesperson, explained that they will try to put their bill through parliament by invoking the right to petition, which allows members of the public to appeal to any public institution, administration or authority. The right to petition is enshrined in the Spanish Constitution and was egulated by means of an Act in 2001. No limit is set on the number of signatures required to take an issue through the Spanish parliament —you merely need to meet the formal requirements—, but the platform hopes to garner “massive” support.
The bill which they aim to table has not been unveiled yet, but it will have eight articles, one of which details that this amnesty “falls within Spanish law”. Regardless of whether their initiative succeeds or not, it is a way to explain and promote the amnesty proposal among the Catalan public. In order to do so, the promoters have vowed to stage numerous actions across Catalonia, including some that “might be controversial”.