SPAIN’S autonomous regions are calling on central government to take more action to avoid chaos in the courts after the coronavirus emergency officially ends on Sunday.
The 17 regional authorities are worried their use of health restrictions designed to continue to control the spread of covid-19 could face a string of legal challenges.
Over the last six months Madrid’s state of alarm legislation has allowed them to introduce restrictions that curb fundamental rights – such as the overnight curfew – without being hauled in front of a judge. Regional governments are concerned the situation will change from May 9.
In a bid to smooth over the transition, the Spanish government has approved a royal decree giving the Supreme Court the final word. It was hoped this would avoid the confusion that occurred last year when, between June and October, judges across different areas gave different legal interpretations of law.
Under the decree, if a lower court refuses to authorise a local restriction, the region can appeal directly to the Supreme Court – and have a ruling within five days. In simple terms, the authorities can continue to impose rules that affect people’s rights to fight the pandemic.
However, this too has been criticised by some regions and top judges. Judge César Toloa, president of the Supreme Court’s administration bench, said: “Judges are not here to govern, these decisions correspond to public authorities.”
And president of Galicia Alberto Núñez Feijóo – who has called for the state of emergency to be extended – said the move was “judicialization of the pandemic’ and attacked Spanish premier Pedro Sánchez of “washing his hands” of managing the response to the health crisis.
But health minister Carolina Darias said the emergency legislation was not intended to be in place long term. “The state of alarm is considered for exceptional situations, not for it to be ‘sine die’.
“We believe the measures available to the regions in accordance with ordinary legislation and in accordance with the royal decree approved on Wednesday are enough to fight the virus.”