La palabra del día: Querella

A feminine noun, from the Latin querella, complaint, and this one from the Latin verb queri, to complain. The Spanish feminine noun denuncia can also be translated into English as complaint, report, claim, but, in Legal Spanish, querella and denuncia are two very different concepts. Both express the idea of a statement or an account that someone has committed a crime. This statement, in both cases, can be made to either a judge or the police. But, in the querella, the person who makes the statement, called el/la querellante, is the victim of that crime and may or may not be involved in the prosecution. And here, we can have, again, two different situations: 1) In delitos de acción privada the querellante activates the proceedings and is personally involved in them. What is a delito de acción privada?: a type of crime that, because it is not considered of such seriousness as to affect the public order of society, cannot be prosecuted ex officio by the public powers (that is, the police, judges or the Public Ministry), but it is necessary the active intervention of the victim as promoter of the action of justice and as part of the judicial process; e.g. defamation, calumnias. 2) In delitos semipúblicos the querella is an indispensable condition to activate the proceedings and, once the querella is made, the victim’s intervention in the proceedings is no longer necessary and they are autonomous from the victim. Although the querellante is not obliged to actively start the prosecution, he/she is also not entitled to withdraw the querella; e.g: breach of confidence, divulgación de secretos. dc