‘Spain’s stay-at-home lockdown in March 2020 was unconstitutional’, top court rules

'Spain's stay-at-home lockdown in March 2020 was unconstitutional', top court rules
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends the first question time session held since the state of alarm was declared at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on April 15, 2020. Photo: Andres Ballesteros/AFP
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the strict home confinement ordered by the government at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year was unconstitutional.

Prime Minister Pedro’s Sánchez’s leftist government declared a three-month state of alarm on March 14th, 2020, allowing it to temporarily limit civil liberties such as the freedom of movement to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.

With the pandemic raging, Spain imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns for several weeks, with people allowed to go out only to go to work if they could not do their jobs from home, or to buy food or medicine or visit a hospital.

The court said in a statement it had annulled some articles of the state of emergency decree related to the free movement of people in response to a lawsuit brought by far-right party Vox.

It agreed with Vox’s argument that the restrictions of movement required the passing of a “state of exception”, which unlike a state of emergency would require approval from parliament and not just the cabinet.

The court said it was a split decision, with six judges voting in favour and five against.

The ruling paves the way for the cancellation of fines imposed on people for breaking the home confinement rules during the state of emergency.

The Spanish government has responded by saying “it respects but does not share” the view of Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“Home confinement allowed us to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Justice Minister Pilar Llop told journalists, describing the situation as being of “extreme emergency” with an “indescribable death count” and “the virus spreading very quickly”. 

Sánchez’s government declared a second state of emergency between the end of October 2020 and May 9th, 2021, but this one did not involve ordering home confinement.

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