The republican politicians and Catalan pro-independence leaders —as well as their voters— have been called Nazis by judges who are members of Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary [CGPJ in Spanish]. This is a point I’d like to emphasise as, according to Article 122 of the Spanish Constitution, the CGPJ’s main duty is to “safeguard and guarantee the independence of judges and courts of law, in the exercise of their function, from the other state powers and before everyone”.
Some might claim that judges do not exercise their judicial function when they exchange messages in a private chat where they give their own personal views. And they might bring up the subject of their privacy, which might have been infringed upon in the case of these judges by online newspapers El Món and eldiario.es publishing their private conversations. This is a matter precisely for a court of law to decide and barristers will no doubt show off their legal footwork.
However, what makes these electronic messages an unprecedented scandal in the EU is a question not of a legal nature, but social and political. Even cultural, I might add. For example, it is unthinkable for judges working in the UK’s Courts and Tribunals Service to exchange messages, not even private ones, calling Scotland’s independence leaders Nazis, let alone the Scottish people at large.
The crux of the matter is this: there is a sizeable, significant part of Spain’s judiciary that identifies with the nationalist far right. Once again, this is hardly surprising in a country like Spain that pretended to stage a most natural transition from a dictatorship to a democracy and paid a toll for this pretence by taking onboard the state structures of the Franco regime. In other words, they filled the ranks of the state’s institutions and the bodies that govern them with individuals whose loyalty to the totalitarian regime had been unwavering and these have perpetuated themselves through their ideological —and sometimes even biological— offspring throughout these forty years of formal democracy. In short, Spain’s state powers have been rotted by authoritarianism.
You might argue that everyone is entitled to their own ideas and judges are no exception. The question here is whether that also includes holding antidemocratic views, such as the ones that ooze from the messages that have been leaked. Referring to their opponents as Nazis and disparaging them with slurs has become the trademark of Spain’s far right and it is unfortunate that a politician should engage in such practices. However, when it is a judge who does, the consequences are devastating: as president Quim Torra has pointed out, it means that there is no legal security in Spain. And not just for independence supporters. Nowadays Spain is a country that fails to provide legal security to all its citizens because it is largely run by the same old far right as ever.