In an unprecedented protest, judges and prosecutors on Friday held demonstrations across Spain to demand that the government withdraw the requirement forcing citizens to pay court filing fees when presenting lawsuits or complaints.
They have also demanded the resignation of the Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, who is behind the measure.
“RIP, without justice there are no rights,” read signs held by some of the 300 people who gathered outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid. They also demanded better working conditions for employees of the legal system.
“The ministry has begun to introduce legislative reforms, some of them already in place, that restrict fundamental rights and violate the effectiveness of legal oversight,” said Madrid Judge Rafael Fluiters, who also criticized the Popular Party (PP) government for using the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) as a “consulting panel” instead of a policy-making body.
Among those who showed up for the demonstration were High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz, Madrid Provincial Court Chief Judge José Luis Armengol, and Judges for Democracy spokesman Joaquim Bosch.
The demonstrators blew whistles outside the Justice Ministry and shouted demands for Gallardón to step down.
Fees for individuals – from 100 to 1,200 euros – went into effect on Thursday after Gallardón decided to reintroduce them. The fee system had been abolished by the Socialists in 1986 to allow equal access to the courts for all citizens, but they were left in place for companies and corporations.
“This is a turnout without precedent,” said one prosecutor who declined to give his name. “Who would have ever thought that judges and prosecutors would come together to protest before the Justice Ministry?”