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Who are Spain’s 17,621 “aforados?”

A guide to the many dignitaries who enjoy immunity from standing trial in the lower courts

What is an aforado?

An aforado is someone who has the right to be tried for crimes by a different court than those that try other citizens. This right is bestowed because of the aforado’s profession or position as an elected official.

How many aforados are there in Spain?

There are 17,621 aforados, not counting members of law enforcement agencies, who have partial aforamiento. Including them, the total figure rises to 280,159.

Which laws recognize aforamiento?

The Constitution recognizes that the Spanish king, the royal family and politicians may be aforados.

The Organic Law of Judicial Power does the same for members of the judiciary.

Regional charters (Estatutos de Autonomía) recognize aforamiento for regional elected officials.

Who are the aforados?

The king

He enjoys the greatest protection of all, since he is free of any responsibility. Article 56 of the Constitution even protects him from any inquiry into his private, civilian life.

The royal family

Queen Letizia, King Felipe VI’s parents, Juan Carlos and Sofía, and the king’s eldest daughter, the Princess of Asturias.

Politicians

There are nearly 2,000 of them: the prime minister, members of his cabinet, regional premiers, regional department chiefs, the speakers of Congress and the Senate, the speakers of the regional parliaments, the president and board members of the Audit Court, the president and board members of the State Council, and the Ombudsman.

The judiciary

Aforamiento is enjoyed by 5,171 judges, 2,407 attorneys and 7,685 justices of the peace. They include the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the president of the General Council of the Judiciary, the president of the Constitutional Court, the president of the High Court, the presidents of the High Courts, the attorney-general, and the attorneys at the Supreme Court.

Which courts try these people?

Members of the royal family may only be tried by the Supreme Court in both criminal and civil law cases.

National politicians are also tried by the Supreme Court, and this exemption from the lower courts extends to their private lives.

In the case of deputies and senators, the corresponding house must first authorize the trial, which means that a majority could stop the legal proceedings.

As for regional politicians, they are tried by the High Courts in their particular region, and in some cases by the Supreme Court.

Members of the judiciary may only be tried by the Supreme Court. Protection from the lower courts extends to their private lives.

Judges and attorneys may only be tried by the High Courts, and only in relation to alleged crimes committed in the exercise of their duties.