MALAGA, Spain—In a decision with international significance, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled last month that the country’s 50-day lockdown to counter the initial spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 was unconstitutional and therefore illegal. In coming to its historic decision, the court focused on whether Spain’s lockdown constituted a limitation or an effective suspension of fundamental rights. 

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez invoked a “State of Alarm”—the least serious of the three states of emergency outlined in Spain’s Constitution—in March 2020, which should have only allowed for a limitation of fundamental freedoms. The court ruled instead that the lockdown imposed by the Spanish government consisted of a temporary suspension of those freedoms, for which a “State of Emergency”—the step above a State of Alarm—should have been invoked. That would have required prior…

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