Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that a strict stay-at-home lockdown order the Spanish government issued under a state of emergency during the first wave of COVID-19 last year was unconstitutional.
While upholding most terms of the state of emergency, the court said provisions ordering the population off the streets except for short shopping trips, unavoidable work commutes and other essential business violated Spain’s Constitution.
The court issued a brief statement that described the ruling as a split decision. State broadcaster TVE said six magistrates were in favor and five against. The full decision is expected to be released in the coming days.
According to TVE, the court majority ruled that the limitations on movement violated citizens’ basic rights and the state of emergency was a constitutionally insufficient mechanism to do that. The six magistrates said a state of exception, which does allow the government to suspend basic rights, would have been necessary.
The Constitutional Court made its ruling in response to a lawsuit brought by Spain’s far-right Vox party. Vox leader Santiago Abascal called Wednesday for Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to step down.
“We cannot celebrate the decision because we have proof that the government was willing to break the law and tarnish the constitution,” Abascal said.
Spain’s government declared the state of emergency on March 14, 2020, three days after the World Health Organization said the spread of the coronavirus had become a pandemic.
With Spain’s hospitals filling up, Sánchez’s left-wing coalition government won parliamentary backing, including from Vox lawmakers, for the state of emergency.
Legal experts said until the court’s full decision is released, it won’t be clear if the ruling will open the gates to lawsuits against the government.