Tuesday, October 19

Juan Carlos Campo, Minister of Justice: “There was no alternative to pardon” | Spain

The Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo (Osuna, Seville, 60 years old), has piloted a decision that will mark the Government of Pedro Sánchez: the pardons to the pro-independence leaders convicted of sedition. He admits that there is no guarantee of success, but maintains that there was no alternative. Faced with the dialogue with the independentistas, he considers an amnesty or the agreed referendum “implantable”.

Question. Did the conviction that prisoners should be pardoned for public utility existed from the beginning or was it the result of an evolution?

Answer. It is the result of analyzing many issues. This is posed to us when pardons are requested, it is not a decision that comes from the Government. And from there, a body of opinion at the individual and government level begins to form. The maturity of the proposal culminates with the partial pardons.

R. The president, Pedro Sánchez, assured that they would serve the sentence in full. Has the Government given up, even in the general interest, as they defend?

R. It is not a problem of surrender, but of conviction. There was no alternative to pardon. That had already been done by others and they failed. The Government respects the judgment of the Supreme Court, but while the unity of Spain was restored in a few seconds [tras la declaración unilateral de independencia], the fracture of society has become more acute. And the function of a government is to remove obstacles to guarantee coexistence.

P. You have said that there was no alternative to pardon, did the Government analyze that scenario?

R. Yes, and the bottom line is that giving [rechazar] negative pardons were not the solution because the problem was not going to be solved. There are times when governments have to put positive elements to change things. We have no guarantee that this will be successful, but we would not forgive ourselves for not trying.

P. There have been controversial pardons, but few with opposition from the court and the Prosecutor’s Office. Did that opinion weigh anything?

R. It has been very taken into account. But they are not binding reports and what you have to do is explain why the Government exercises this act of discretion. It is true that these reports refer more to justice and equity. The reasons of public utility are those that the Government puts on the table. The jurisprudence of the Supreme Court has been studied a lot and to what extent its control reaches an act that is political.

P. Would you be surprised if resources were thriving?

R. One takes a proposal to the Council of Ministers thinking of absolute correction. Hopefully that is the case and there is no reproach from the Supreme.

P. The Supreme Court considered that forgiving the prisoners was a self-indulgence. Do you understand that it is questionable to pardon the leaders of your investiture partners?

R. The opinions are perfectly admissible, which is not to say that they are shared. But reading article 102 of the Constitution and the doctrine on it show that the Government cannot pardon itself. I am not going to tell the Supreme Court how to pronounce itself, but I am clear about the criteria followed to propose pardons.

Juan Carlos Campo, in his office at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice.
Juan Carlos Campo, in his office at the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice.Samuel Sanchez

P. Some convicts have scorned pardon, would you have liked a different attitude?

R. Sure, without a doubt. But it is not what worries us the most. The important thing is the general interest and this is above that of the beneficiaries of the pardon. That I would have liked other attitudes? Well yes, but nothing happens. And that is why the law does not require repentance to pardon.

P. The legal justification for pardon is public utility. But were there also reasons of justice or equity?

R. The Government has focused on those of public utility. This is not a review of the sentence. It is not a question of justice or fairness.

P. Did they consider not to pardon the crime of embezzlement?

R. The pardon is about a penalty, the two crimes are not removed, nor is one crime and another, no.

P. The PSOE asked in Congress, being you the spokesman for Justice, a reform of the pardon law to exclude crimes of corruption. Would you no longer defend him?

R. Today’s circumstances mean that part of the criminal conviction is forgiven, with certain conditions and in the general interest.

P. The files allude to the fact that many citizens think that the penalties were disproportionate. You believe it?

R. No, they were the ones that proceeded in Law. They failed to break the unity of Spain because it is guaranteed by the Constitution, but the social fracture continues.

P. If the penalties are not disproportionate, should the crime of sedition be reformed?

R. Yes, it must be done. Not only reform the crime of sedition or rebellion, but it is necessary to touch all the elements of public order as a protected legal asset. It is not a question of lowering the penalty in one crime or another, but rather of articulating an adequate legal-criminal response. When it is finalized, it will be debated.

P. Will repeated disobedience to the Constitutional law penalize?

R. It is being studied. We endow the Constitutional Court with powers, but we have not established responses to these behaviors. Must see. And see how they treat it in other countries and embrace the model that most closely resembles our system.

P. The sedition reform could benefit Puigdemont, does the Government assume it?

R. What the Government wants is that those who have fled from Justice are accountable to it. When a Penal Code is modified, it is not done thinking of someone, but thinking in general.

P. With the reform they are preparing, would Puigdemont be arrested and imprisoned if he returns?

R. The reform of the Penal Code is not short-term, it is an organic law that has quite generous times.

Juan Carlos Campo, during the interview.
Juan Carlos Campo, during the interview.Samuel Sanchez

P. Do pardons reinforce the arguments of those convicted before the European Court of Human Rights?

R. Absolutely. The right to pardon is recognized in all systems, the European Court itself has said that there must be clemency mechanisms.

P. Would a victory for the prisoners in Europe call into question the most important judgment in the recent history of Spain?

R. What I have clear is that, with this difficult measure and that can be misunderstood by many, coexistence wins.

P. ¿The law of pardon should it also be reformed?

R. It is not good to talk about legislative changes in specific situations. They must be the result of a pros and cons analysis.

P. But is it among your objectives to reform it?

R. No, it is not in question.

P. Would you be in favor of reforming it to exclude some crimes from pardon as proposed by the PSOE at the time?

R. I am in favor of debating everything and, if there is consensus, being able to take it into law.

P. The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, has said that it is time for an amnesty, for the right to self-determination and for an agreed referendum. Do you rule out a legal change to accommodate any of these initiatives?

R. The Government wants to promote dialogue and do so with the current legal system. The idea of ​​an amnesty is implantable; the idea of ​​an agreed referendum is implantable. The amnesty supposes the oblivion and the pardon supposes the pardon to build from there, but without forgetting that there were some very serious events in 2017 and that they should not be repeated.

P. What gesture do you expect now from the independentistas?

R. We expect an attitude for constructive dialogue within the legal framework.

P. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe supports the pardons and the withdrawal of the Euro-orders against the fled independence activists. Do you share it?

R. I do not share the method or the solution, but I respect all the pronouncements. I am very clear that we are a first class rule of law, a full democracy. And with full respect for the separation of powers.

P. Are you worried that Spain will be equated with Turkey?

R. Sure it worries me because it’s a big blur.

P. And why has it happened?

R. You have to ask the Assembly.

P. Hasn’t the government or you as a minister inquired?

R. The Government is very respectful of international organizations. If they think they should have voted for that, they will know.

P. After what happened in the covid-19 pandemic, do we have to reform health laws?

R. I think we have to keep up with the current vaccination rate. We have a society that knows how to fight in the most critical moments and we have to put all our energy into applying recovery funds well and putting the country where we all want

P. But apart from that, do you think that health laws need to be reformed?

R. I think we have to focus all our efforts on the recovery of the country.

P. Does the Government have any plan b to convince the PP to renew the General Council of the Judiciary? Are you considering reforming the system of election of the members so that it will be in force for the next renewal?

R. The only formula that exists is to make the PP see that compliance with the Constitution has no excuses. It must be renewed. You can talk about solutions, but I am clear that there is no alternative to renewal. We cannot play with institutions. We cannot fill our mouths by saying, on the one hand, that the Constitution must be complied with and, on the other, not complying with it. I call on the PP to close a pact that, on the other hand, is already very closed.

P. Is there a plan to unlock if the PP does not agree to the pact? Is the legal reform to change the necessary majority completely ruled out?

R. That is a settled issue. The Prime Minister already said that it was in the freezer. Parliamentary groups withdrew it and it is no longer in question.

P. They are processing the reform of the Criminal Procedure Law (Lecrim) to, among other changes, leave the investigation of criminal cases in the hands of prosecutors. But the draft bill has not pleased the Fiscal Council. Should the text be improved?

R. I take the criticisms with an enriching character because for that the reports are requested. When I presented the draft I said that this was the first word, but not the last, because the last word will be given by the Chambers. All constrictive criticisms will be assumed, debated and hopefully admitted with the greatest consensus. The more wills we are able to add to such an important text, the better it will be for all of us.


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