Thursday, January 20

Juan Carlos I: The presumption of innocence is not enough | Opinion


Juan Carlos I.
Juan Carlos I.

The conversation unfolded at El Escorial this summer. I don’t remember how or why the topic came up. I am very aware that in the discussion about the situation of the King Emeritus, no one intervened to defend his innocence. There were those who expressed a feeling of regret at seeing how a trajectory of impact is tarnished in historical terms. Others were inclined to underline a deep shame that undoubtedly makes it difficult to recognize the political legacy. That conversation —with no major significance, but interesting due to the plurality of ideologies, ages and sensibilities represented— has returned to my memory when I learned of the statement with which Mr. Juan Carlos’s lawyer lashed out at the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning, in his opinion, the principle of your client’s innocence.

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Defining a defense strategy for a King Emeritus should not be an easy task. Beyond the technical dimension, it also requires paying attention to the public debate that the actions of the courts are generating in the society that this King served. A good lawyer is trained to tilt the conversation towards a technical frame, since in the framework of a judicial process the one who manages to preserve intact the presumption of innocence wins. It does not matter if the result is obtained by the absence of conclusive evidence, appealing to the prescription of crimes or, better still, thanks to the privilege of inviolability. Any of the legal reasons presented would offer, by itself, a favorable scenario of exoneration in criminal terms, but … is this the only possible defense that the person who was Head of State can articulate today? If, as it could be concluded, they have given up defending the decency of a real behavior to place it within the perimeter of criminal reproach, it is unrealistic to imagine that their figure can regain in society the respect that facilitates the maintenance of honors, even if it manages to avoid successfully to prosecutors and courts. We are not, as your lawyer may believe, in an exclusively legal debate. It is also a case about exemplarity as a legitimizing element of the authority of the one who was King of Spain.

Let’s not fool ourselves. The evolution of the criminal proceedings against D. Juan Carlos is not the biggest problem facing the monarchy in Spain, today well represented by D. Felipe. The real challenge for the maintenance of the institution itself passes, in my understanding, to strengthen controls so that the viability of the system does not rest exclusively on the alleged present or future virtue of a person. The case of the King Emeritus provides sufficient evidence about the consequences of this lack of control over the holder of the Crown. Beyond the fact that the above compromises a part of the narrative of our recent history, we should now concentrate our efforts on normatively strengthening such control structures. In this sense, it is necessary to speed up the work leading to the development of the title of the Spanish Constitution that regulates the Crown. A responsibility whose impulse corresponds to exercise the House of the King and the Government. What are you waiting for?


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