[UPDATE2 March 2018 – The documents disclosed can be found here.]

Madrid, 21 September 2017 – Spain’s High Court has ruled that Access Info Europe should have access to Spanish Government documents related to participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in an important ruling where the Court for the first time makes reference to the right of access to information in international treaties.

In a final decision, which is not open to appeal, the High Court rejected the Spanish Government’s attempt to classify progress reports on the OGP Action Plan as internal documents of an “auxiliary” nature.

In doing so, the Court reined in the controversial Article 18 of Spain’s 2013 Transparency Law – a provision that excludes access to “auxiliary” documents – arguing that there could be no exclusion for documents that are necessary to understanding how a decision is being or has been taken.

This is a hugely important ruling because it will help open up decision-making processes in Spain,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

The Spanish High Court referred to key international jurisprudence [1] to bolster its argument that any limitations on the right should themselves be limited and that a broad interpretation should be given to “public information” in line with the spirit of the law.

It’s exciting that we are seeing references to the jurisprudence the European Court of Human Rights, which could eventually lead to a recognition in Spain of a fundamental right of access to information,” added Darbishire.

These judicial decisions help correct mistakes that public bodies are making when applying Spain’s relatively new transparency law,” commented Enrique Jaramillo, lawyer for Access Info in the case. “It’s also important to integrate European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence into Spanish judicial thinking.”

This somewhat surreal battle over access to documents relating to the Open Government Partnership dates back to August 2015 when, faced with a wall of silence from the Spanish Cabinet Office (Ministry of the Presidency) on progress in implementing commitments made under Open Government Partnership processes, Access Info’s director Helen Darbishire submitted an information request asking for documents that would provide status updates.

Not only did the Spanish Government refuse to provide full documentation in response to the initial information request, but when Spain’s Transparency Council ruled in favour of disclosure, the Government went to Court to challenge that ruling. This High Court ruling is now definitive, and the Ministry of Presidency should provide Access Info with the documents.

You can find the High Court ruling here (in Spanish): alt

The judicial decision confirming the High Court ruling, published on 2 November 2017, can be found here (in Spanish): alt

For more information, please contact:

Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe

Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558


[1] Youth initiative for Human Rights v. Serbia, 25 June 2013, and Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Hungary, 8 November 2016

Photo: houstondwiPhotos mp via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)