Are our assets and liberties at risk?
The draft bill for the reform of the Spanish national security law foresees that, in the event of a serious crisis, citizens of legal age may be obliged to provide “personal services” to the state, which may also intervene, or provisionally requisition goods and capital that it deems necessary.
This is what is established in the draft bill published by the newspaper El País, which modifies the Law 36/2015 on National Security. These measures were already, in part, contemplated by the Law 17/2015 on the National Civil Protection System for cases of emergency, but are now extended to the field of national security.
Seizing assets and capital
One of the most controversial points that has generated the most criticism from the opposition, consternation on social media, and debate among legal experts, is the possibility, in extreme conditions, of the state having the power to seize or requisition our assets and capital. Nonetheless, with the right to be compensated for economic damages in the business activity, but without compensation for any obligation to make a personal service.
It should be noted that this is a draft that has not yet been approved and has to go through the Cortes. However, the ambiguity and lack of specificity give rise to different legal interpretations that create mistrust.
As Arcadi Sala-Planell, head of the Legal Department at 11Onze, explains, the draft bill is not very precise. “It is designed in such a way that the government can act with total freedom and discretion, thanks to the imprecision of the articles, which allows for a legal interpretation that is too broad”.
Former Constitutional Court lawyer Joaquín Urías believes that “the law must include mechanisms to prevent anyone from using it in the future for disproportionate or illegitimate purposes” and insists that the reform “must be as detailed as possible” and should include “a list of catastrophes or emergencies for which it could be applied, which authorities are qualified to guarantee compliance and even the development of a system of sanctions”.
Securing critical resources
It is clear that lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent declaration of a state of alarm have influenced the wording of this draft bill. Speculation as a result of excess demand and shortages of certain medical supplies such as masks or PPE led to extravagant price rises and dramatic scenes of medical staff working without adequate protective equipment.
In a context of extreme crisis, governments want to ensure that they have sufficient legal tools to guarantee critical resources. A concept that is not new and for which other countries, such as the US, already have similar laws that they have used during the pandemic to urge companies to collaborate with state authorities in overcoming the crisis.
That said, we are talking about an ordinary law, but one which, as jurists have pointed out, may affect our fundamental rights, and which will possibly be processed as an organic law in order to avoid legal issues and have all the legal guarantees. This procedure will have to be accompanied by more precise and detailed articles to guarantee that there can be no abuse of authority by the representatives of the executive branch of the State.
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