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Access to the documents in the Ministry of Justice's general archive

What is it?

The General Archive of the Ministry of Justice is an organic set of documents, gathered by public legal entities in the course of their duties, which may be used for research, culture, information and administrative management.

As such, it forms part of the State Administration's Archive System since it acts as a Central Archive, meaning, a centre that receives all transfers from the Office Archives belonging to the Ministry of Justice once documents are five years old and their processing has come to a conclusion. Once the terms established in current legislation have concluded, it also sends all these documents to the Administration's General Archive, which acts as an intermediary archive for the State Archive System, or in its absence to the National Historical Archive, which serves as a historical archive. The General Archive dates back to the creation of the "Secretarías de Despacho" in the 18th century (Secretaría de Despacho de Negocios Eclesiásticos y Judiciales - Office of Ecclesiastical and Judicial Affairs) and contains documents that date from the 13th century right through to the present day.

Due to its dual role as both a historical and administrative archive, access to its archives is regulated by Law 30/1992 of 26 November, on the Central Government Legal Framework and Common Administrative Procedure, and by Law 16/1985 of 25 June, on Spanish Historical Heritage, as well as by the Order of the Ministry of Justice JUS/2546/2004 of 26 July.

Documentary collections

The General Archive of the Ministry of Justice has two large collections of documents:

1. Contemporary Documents

As the Central Archive, it is the custodian of the administrative documentation generated by the various offices in the department. This block of contemporary documents is the most abundant and its annual increase is currently estimated at an average of 7000 installation units.

These collections are classified according to the structure of the Ministry, which, in accordance with Royal Decree 453/2012, of 5 March, developing the basic organisational structure of the Ministry of Justice and amended by Royal Decree 1887/2011, of 30 December, establishing the basic organisational structure of the ministerial departments, is as follows:


1.1. Gabinete del Ministro (Office of the Minister)

1.1.1. Oficina de Prensa (Press Office)

1.2. Comisión General de Codificación (General Legislation Commission)

1.3. Consejo del organismo autónomo Centro de Estudios Jurídicos (Council of the autonomous Centre for Legal Studies)

1.4. Junta de Gobierno de la Orden de San Raimundo de Peñafort (Board of Governors of the Order of San Raimundo de Peñafort)

1.5. Conferencia Sectorial de Administración de Justicia (Sectoral Conference on Administration of Justice)


2.1. Gabinete del Secretario de Estado (Office of the Secretary of State)

2.2. Secretaría General de la Administración de Justicia (General Secretariat of the Administration of Justice)

2.2.1. Dirección General de Relaciones con la Administración de Justicia (General Directorate of Relations with the Administration of Justice) Subdirección General de Relaciones con la Administración de Justicia y el Ministerio Fiscal (Sub-Directorate General of Relations with the Administration of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service) Subdirección General de Medios Personales al Servicio de la Administración de Justicia (Sub-Directorate General of Human Resources in the Service of the Administration of Justice) Subdirección General de Recursos Económicos de la Administración de Justicia (Sub-Directorate General of Economic Resources of the Administration of Justice) Subdirección General de Organización y Coordinación Territorial de la Administración de Justicia (Sub-Directorate General of Territorial Coordination and Organisation for the Administration of Justice) Regional Offices Instituto Nacional de Toxicología y Ciencias Forenses (National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences)

2.2.2. Subdirección General de Programación de la Modernización (Sub-Directorate General of Modernisation Programming)

2.2.3. Subdirección General de Nuevas Tecnologías de la Justicia (Sub-Directorate General of New Technologies for Justice)

2.2.4. Subdirección General de Registros Administrativos de Apoyo a la Actividad Judicial (Sub-Directorate General of Administrative Records to Support Judicial Activity)

2.3. Dirección General de Cooperación Jurídica Internacional y Relaciones con las Confesiones (Directorate General of International Legal Cooperation and Relations with Religious Orders)

2.3.1. Subdirección General de Cooperación Jurídica Internacional (Sub-Directorate General of International Legal Cooperation)

2.3.2. Subdirección General para los Asuntos de Justicia en la Unión Europea y Organismos Internacionales (Sub-Directorate General of Justice Affairs in the European Union and International Organisations)

2.3.3. Subdirección General de Relaciones con las Confesiones (Sub-Directorate General of Relations with Religious Orders)

2.4. Centro de Estudios Jurídicos (Centre for Legal Studies)

2.5. Mutualidad General Judicial (General Judicial Mutual Insurance Fund)


3.1. Gabinete Técnico de la Subsecretaría (Technical Office of the Undersecretary)

3.2. Secretaría General Técnica (General Technical Secretariat)

3.2.1. Vicesecretaría General Técnica (General Technical Deputy Secretariat)

3.2.2. Subdirección General de Política Legislativa (Sub-Directorate General of Legislative Policy)

3.2.3. Subdirección General de Documentación y Publicaciones (Sub-Directorate General of Documentation and Publications)

3.2.4. División de Recursos y Relaciones con los Tribunales (Division of Resources and Relations with the Courts)

3.3. Dirección General de los Registros y del Notariado (Directorate General of Notaries and Registries)

3.3.1. Subdirección General de Nacionalidad y Estado Civil (Sub-Directorate General of Nationality and Civil Status)

3.3.2. Subdirección General del Notariado y de los Registros (Sub-Directorate General of Notaries and Registries)

3.4. Oficina Presupuestaria (Budget Office)

3.5. Subdirección General de Recursos Humanos (Sub-Directorate General of Human Resources)

3.6. Subdirección General de Contratación y Servicios (Sub-Directorate General of Contracting and Services)

3.7. Subdirección General de Obras y Patrimonio (Sub-Directorate General of Works and Heritage)

3.8. Subdirección General de Información Administrativa e Inspección General de Servicios (Sub-Directorate General of Administrative Information and General Service Inspection)

3.9. División de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (Information and Communications Technology Division)

3.10. División de Derechos de Gracia y otros Derechos (Pardons and Other Rights Division)

3.11. Intervención Delegada de la Intervención General de la Administración General del Estado (Audit Office of the General Comptroller of the Central Government Administration)

3.12. Comisión Ministerial de Retribuciones (Ministerial Commission on Remuneration)

3.13. Comisión Ministerial de Información Administrativa (Ministerial Commission on Administrative Information)

3.14. Comisión Ministerial de Administración Electrónica (Ministerial Commission on E-Government)


4.1. Subdirección General de los Servicios Consultivos (Sub-Directorate General of Advisory Services)

4.2. Subdirección General de los Servicios Contenciosos (Sub-Directorate General of Litigation Services)

4.3. Abogacía del Estado en el Ministerio de Justicia - Gabinete del Abogado General del Estado (State Attorney in the Ministry of Justice - Office of the Attorney General of the State)

4.4. Subdirección General de Asuntos de la Unión Europea e Internacionales (Sub-Directorate General of European Union and International Affairs)

4.5. Subdirección General de Coordinación, Auditoría y de Gestión del Conocimiento (Sub-Directorate General of Coordination, Audits and Knowledge Management)

4.6. Subdirección General de Constitucional y Derechos Humanos (Sub-Directorate General of Human and Constitutional Rights)

4.7. Secretaría General (General Secretariat)

4.8. Abogacía del Estado ante el Tribunal Supremo (State Attorney before the Supreme Court)

4.9. Abogacía del Estado ante la Audiencia Nacional (State Attorney before the National High Court)

4.10. Abogacías del Estado de los departamentos ministeriales (State Attorneys in the ministerial departments)

4.11. Abogacía del Estado ante el Tribunal de Cuentas (State Attorney before the Court of Auditors)

4.12. Abogacías del Estado en la Administración periférica del Estado (State Attorneys in the Peripheral State Administration)

4.13. Servicio Jurídico de la Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria y las Abogacías del Estado (Legal Service of the State Tax Administration Agency and the State Attorneys’ Offices)

The General Archives contain documentation from almost all the units within the Ministry, with the exception of associated and autonomous bodies, or State Attorneys and Regional Offices, which keep their own files.

2. Historical Documents

In addition to the administrative documents that are received annually by the offices, the Archives keep documents from the 13 century to the present. Highlights include the following historical sections:

  • Reserved Cabinet. 94 boxes. Basic dates: 1568-1935
  • Chamber of Castile. 15 boxes. Basic dates: 1612-1914
  • Royal Family. 63 boxes. Basic dates: 1615-1914
  • The “Cortes” or Parliament. 37 boxes. Basic dates: 1702-1886
  • Bar Association. 29 boxes. Basic dates: 1779-1931
  • Directorate General of Ecclesiastical Affairs. 560 boxes. Basic dates: 1497-1983.
  • Personal Records (judges and magistrates). 19 and 20 century
  • Pardons. 32 boxes. Basic dates: 1789-1967
  • Nuestra Señora de la Merced (Our Lady of Mercy) Trust. 37 drawers. Basic dates [1960-1983]
  • Titles of the Nobility. 1615 boxes. Basic dates: 1287-2012

Everyone has the right to access the documentation making up the documentary heritage that is preserved in the Archives of the Ministry of Justice, provided that such records relate to proceedings that have terminated as at the date of the request.

Who can request it?/present

The documentation which makes up the documentary assets conserved in the General Archive of the Ministry of Justice can generally be freely accessed if the request is for files corresponding to procedures which have reached their conclusion on the date the request is made.

This right shall be exercised according to current legislation and can only be restricted in accordance with the exemptions set out in article 37 of Law 30/1992 of 26 November on the Central Government Legal Framework and Common Administrative Procedure, in articles 52.1, 57 and 62 of Law 16/1985 of 25 June on Spanish Historical Heritage, and pursuant to all other regulations governing access to the historical document archives.

Further information

The application shall only be valid for the documents requested and access shall be granted for a specific period of time. The application should state as clearly as possible the documentation the applicant wishes to access and must include the following a minimum:

  • Personal details of the interested party and, where applicable, their representative, an indication of the preferred means or place to which any notification should be sent. If the interested party has a representative, the application must include evidence of the capacity in which the representative acts.
  • The documents requested for examination must be clearly listed.

The documents requested may be consulted without stating the reasons for the request, except in the case of documents that are restricted because they contain personal data, in which case the Archive may require the applicant to provide certain documents necessary to resolve the application, such as the consent of the person affected, death certificate of the affected person which is more than 25 years old or any other document proving the existence of a legitimate interest, understood to be held by those who request it for the exercise of their rights or for a historical, scientific or statistical purpose.

The decisions on access requests shall be notified in writing to the applicants within the period of 30 days from the receipt of the application at the Archive.

If the decision is to accept the request, the form and date for the consultation of documents will be indicated.

Authorisation for consultation will be valid for a maximum period of fifteen days from the date assigned, after which, if the revision of the documents has not been carried out, they will be returned to the archive, requiring a new application should they wish to consult them again.

Requests for access will be denied when the documents the petitioner intends to consult are affected by any of the situations involving restriction of access contained in the current legislation. In these cases, the decision must be substantiated.

The body responsible for resolving access requests is the General Technical Secretariat of the Ministry of Justice, which the Sub-Directorate General of Documentation and Publications functionally reports to.

Those requests which, due to their lack of specificity or the excessive number of documents requested, affect the efficiency of the service will be rejected.

When the period for resolution expires without express notification to this effect having been received, the application shall be deemed to be approved.

The decisions may be challenged in the manner and deadlines provided for in Article 107 et seq. of Law 30/1992, of 26 November, on the Legal Regime of Public Administrations and the Common Administrative Procedure

Obtaining of copies

The right of access implies the right to obtain simple and duly processed copies of documents whose examination has been authorised, upon payment, if applicable, of the fees that are legally established.

Copies may be made by the following means:

  • In photocopy format, provided that such documents do not exceed A3 size, are not bound or, if bound, may be placed in a photocopier without damaging the binding (i.e. when opened they should not exceed A3 size and should be able to be opened fully). No photocopies are allowed, even if their size so permits, of handwritten documents from any era, despite their being in good condition. No colour photocopies will be provided, given that there are no means to provide the same. When documents are scanned, they shall be printed from the image instead of a direct photocopy being made from the original.
  • In digital format, interested parties may be authorised to capture, at their own expense and using a digital camera without flash provided by themselves, the information contained in the documents, whether handwritten or printed, loose or bound and whatever their size, as long as this does not cause any impairment to the original.

The making of copies may only be refused in the following cases:

  • When, given the age or condition of the original document, its handling and reproduction involves a certain risk of impairment of the document.
  • When copies cannot be made in a certain format due to lack of technical means.
  • When reproduction involves a violation of intellectual property rights.

Administrative decisions authorising access by interested parties to the documents in the General Archive of the Ministry of Justice will explain the conditions and circumstances regarding making of copies and their subsequent use, which may be denied, as long as reasons are given, in the aforementioned situations.

How to request it/present