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Chamber in Sevilla’s Cathedral, Spain. Photo credit: Angel Luciano

Spain’s new National Security Law ‘tailor-made for government to act without democratic control’

Spanish legal experts consider it a scandal that the Sánchez government "does not want to submit to parliamentary control" with the new National Security Law.

Published: July 27, 2021, 11:26 am

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    Legal experts consulted by Libertad Digital (LD) denounced the National Security Law which “is tailor-made so that the Government of Pedro Sánchez acts without democratic control”.

    On June 22 in the Council of Ministers, the draft law revealed that it would oblige, among other issues, all persons of legal age to perform “personal sacrifices” required by the competent authorities in the event that a state of crisis is declared in Spain. In fact, Sánchez will be able to make rules regarding national security by royal decree, without going through Congress or the National Security Council, and will be able to skip the procedures “if there are reasons of urgency”. In addition, it includes the obligation of all media to collaborate with the competent authorities in the dissemination of information of a preventive or operational nature.

    The legal sources consulted by LD warned that the reform of the National Security Law prepared by the Executive may have the objective of “replacing the organic law of the state of emergency, exception and siege, which is based on article 116 of the Constitution, for the Government to make decisions alone if the Covid-19 pandemic becomes complicated again.”

    The National Security Law will free Sánchez from reporting on documents, contracts, funding

    “This new emergency situation for reasons of national security means creating a new state not provided for in the Constitution, eliminating political and judicial controls and restricting rights by ordinary law, contrary to article 53 of the Magna Carta,” they highlighted.

    “The key is parliamentary control. The new Citizen Security Law would grant Sánchez full powers without having to give explanations to Congress. The Executive would act autonomously when establishing the limitation of fundamental rights and would convert a Coordination Law into a Law of intervention,” the group of experts pointed out.

    “It is a scandal that the Government does not want to submit to parliamentary control. The problem is that most political parties have already accepted the dictatorship of Sánchez when they supported the second 7-month extension of the state of emergency,” they added.

    Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled this month that a strict stay-at-home lockdown order the Spanish government issued under a state of emergency during the first wave of Covid-19 last year was unconstitutional. The court made its ruling in response to a lawsuit brought by Spain’s anti-immigration Vox party.

    “There is a great lack of democratic culture in society and the Executive is out of control. The problem is that it has been peacefully accepted that the Government suspends fundamental rights for months. It is the anti-democratic culture imposed by a left-wing government,” they concluded.

    What can Spain’s government do?

    The reform of the National Security Law will allow the Government to have “all the resources” public or private and to mobilize the elderly. Pedro Sánchez will have full powers if he decides that there is a crisis that justifies “a national security situation”. According to the draft, the “Special Communications Network of the Presidency of the Government” – essentially his team of non-elected advisors – will serve as a “support mechanism” for national security.

    The text includes an additional provision that states that all “documents and information handled by the National Security System are excluded from the right of access to public information”, that is, outside the obligations stipulated by the Transparency Law. This means that the contracts that the Government could make in “situations of interest to national security” to ensure “self-supply to Spain under exceptional conditions” would be beyond any control regarding the procedure or the money that is involved.

    Added to this ridiculous opacity related to funding and reporting, is the creation of a “Strategic Reserve based on the National Capacities of Industrial Production” with a list of the companies that the Executive deem to be “adaptable” and “scalable” according to their needs. In addition, it should be remembered that the Government will be able to dispose of “all available resources from the affected public administrations” and private resources “in the hands of individuals”.

    It will also include the possibility of temporarily requisitioning all types of property, the intervention or provisional occupation of those that are necessary, through the suspension of all types of activities. As compensation, the rule also includes, according to the Prisa newspaper, that those who suffer financial losses due to the seizure of their property or the interruption of their activity will have the right to be compensated. But the same does not apply to those who are obliged to make a “personal sacrifice” under the new law.

    Spain’s largest morning newspaper, El País, reported that the control over Spanish society would become almost total for the state, which can decide what is written and said in the media.

    The document does not state what the crisis would be, but El País alluded to an ecological or economic crisis. And it is not Parliament that declares a crisis, but the Prime Minister.

    Lessons from repression during the pandemic

    The National Security Act of 2015 already contained a provision that gave the government a deadline of one year to submit a bill to Parliament’s upper and lower houses that would regulate “preparation and disposition of resources for national security”. Instead of developing this, the Spanish government decided to reform the National Security Law based on lessons learned from crisis measures during the pandemic.

    The wording of the reform is based on Article 30 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that “the Spaniards have a duty and a right to defend Spain”. This is the same article governing compulsory military service, which, however, ended in 2001. It is therefore not based on Section 2, which deals with the “military obligation of the Spaniards”, but rather on Section 4, which states that “citizens’ obligations in case of serious risk, disaster or general catastrophe can be regulated by law ”– a constitutional possibility that had not been developed or used until now.

    The measures already introduced during the pandemic, such as curfews, masking and travel bans, were seen by many Spaniards as a way for the state to gain an advantage over the regions fighting for more local self-determination. Catalonia, for example, voted for independence in 2017, but the vote was not approved by the central government, which cracked down hard on the rebel province.

    Critics also warned that the new law, if passed, will open Pandora’s box of even more repressive measures at the discretion of the state, and that no power structure has so far voluntarily backed away from more power.

    Vox accuses Sánchez of wanting to impose “a regime of terror”

    The spokesman for the Vox Political Action Committee, Jorge Buxadé, accused the Prime Minister of wanting to impose “a regime of terror” with the reform of the National Security Law planned by the Executive and added that his party would also challenge the new law before the Constitutional Court when it is approved. In a press conference at the national headquarters of his party, Buxadé thus referred to the draft reform published by El País.

    At the press conference, the MEP indicated that the Government may “impose personal sacrifices and defraud the Spanish without going through Parliament”.

    “Will Sánchez be able to impose censorship on the press and seize property only from Spaniards or will he also do it with immigrants?” asked the leader of Vox, who denounced the “illegal entries” recently in Murcia and Almería.

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