The Spine

Homage to Catalonia. Disregard Your Rulers

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"Catalans should disregard rulings by Spanish judiciary" is the headline to a letter in the Financial Times. It is signed by Gustau Alegret who wrote from Washington, D.C.

I do not know him. But his letter confirms everything I've heard about the country's courts.

Here's what the letter says:

Sir, With reference to “Catalans struggle to reconcile divided loyalties” (July 12): the Spanish constitutional court recently ruled on the statute of autonomy of Catalonia.

This statute was ratified by the people of Catalonia by referendum in 2006 after a long legal path that followed the democratic process to the letter. However, it has since been watered down by a high court of questionable legitimacy.

Spain has a very weak judicial system which is influenced by members of government, citizens and companies. The World Economic Forum periodically releases data reports. Among these documents there is the Executive Opinion Survey which polls about 13,000 business executives worldwide. This survey shows indicators related to judicial independence. In the most recent of these surveys, Spain is listed in 60th place, below countries such as Nigeria (59th) or Saudi Arabia (34th), and just above the Czech Republic and China.

The independence of the judiciary is a basic principle of democracy. The judiciary should not be subject to improper influence from other branches of government; when this happens, its legitimacy is called into question.

The responses to the WEF survey shouldn’t be forgotten by the Spanish legislators. It is an embarrassment for Spain and a reason for the Catalan people to disregard the decision on the statute of autonomy.

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