“The Sortu sentence has an enormous pedagogical effect”

original interview in GARA basque newspaper

Javier Perez Royo (Sevilla, 1944) is a jurist of renowned prestige who has intervened in some of the deepest legal questions of the last decade in the Spanish state.

Javier Perez Royo had it clear from the beginning that the statutes of Sortu never should have been challenged. That is why he has felt “satisfaction” at the decision of the Constitutional Court to support the repeal against the veto to its registry as a political party.

Finally, the Spanish Constitutional Court has backed the inscription of Sortu in the registry of political parties. What is your first evaluation?
This puts an end to the process that began when Sortu deposited their statues in the registry of political parties at the Interior Ministry. Now there is no appeal against this action, so that the subject, legally, is resolved. The party now acquires a legal personality. This is the end of the battle for the legalization of Sortu and, therefore, for the normalization of this party as just another.

More than a year has passed since the Supreme Court vetoed the inscription of Sortu. Why did the legalization process take so long?
The subject was very conflictive, not just in the Basque Country but in Spain. However, it dealt with a question which should never even have planted. The government shouldn’t have acted and the Prosecutors’ Office should never have lodged an appeal. The statutes clearly fit in with the Constitution and the Law of Political Parties. Once it was planted, they had many complications because there existed a division in the heart of the Supreme Court, in the Constitutional Court, in Spanish society in general. There was a lot of tension, a lot of division, and that is what it has been: an ebb and flow during this time that, fortunately, has turned out well. What’s more, the decision is definitive. The right to protest will exist, but it doesn’t have recourse.

However, the Constitutional Court has imposed some conditions, such as what they say in “not equating victims” of ETA’s violence with the prisoners.
They have included a series of determinants in which they advise about a possible posterior banning. But this doesn’t have any importance. It was added to cover themselves a bit, but Bildu and Amaiur are already in the institutions and nothing is happening. What’s more, progressively, everything is going to be more normalized. The coming elections are going to be celebrated relatively soon and Sortu will be there as a normal party and, predictably, will obtain very good results and will accumulate an important space in the Basque Country, which will make it even more implausible that they can put them outside of the law again. I think that that is now resolved, fortunately, nothing allows me to venture a later decision.

In a previous interview, you pointed out that the Spanish state couldn’t allow this case to go to Europe. Could that have had any influence?
If the Constitutional Court wouldn’t have given their support, this could have gone to Europe, and probably the European Court of Human Rights would have condemned the Spanish state. But the sentence can’t be appealed.

The Spanish right has attacked a decision adopted by a divided Constitutional Court.
They also decided to divide the Supreme Court. It was exactly the same, only from a different side. If it was valid for the Supreme Court, why wouldn’t it be valid for the Constitutional Court? Also, two of the magistrates who aren’t in favour of legalization didn’t emit dissenting opinions. That is a difference with respect to the previous sentence. You also can see an internal movement in the Constitutional Court; you don’t see the animosity or the severity in the banning that you saw, for example, in the sentence for Bildu. You can interpret that as something positive.

You’ve pointed out that the sentence isn’t understood by Spanish society. Do you think that the sentence can serve as a work of pedagogy towards those who still defend political exclusion?
This sentence has an enormous pedagogical effect. Soon this will be understood in a very different way than what it was before the Bildu sentence. This sentence is going to have a lot of influence on the formation of public opinion.

The political consequences are also evident.
They are going to hold some elections in which, for the first time, they are going to live, why not say it, in normalcy. There isn’t going to be the violence that existed nor will there be a sector of the population who can’t express themselves politically. For the first time they will be able to participate in equal conditions. Now will have to see what the Basque people decide in these circumstances.