Saltar Menú de navegación
Archive |

Spain news


Seven years after the Law of Historical Memory was approved, tens of thousands of families of Civil War victims are still waiting for closure
26.09.14 - 13:49 -
0 votos

Cerrar Envía la noticia

Rellena los siguientes campos para enviar esta información a otras personas.

Nombre Email remitente
Para Email destinatario
Borrar    Enviar

Cerrar Rectificar la noticia

Rellene todos los campos con sus datos.

Nombre* Email*
* campo obligatorioBorrar    Enviar
Graves fallen into oblivion
Remains of one of the victims exhumed in San Rafael cemetery in Malaga. :: SERGIO TORRES / AFP
Seven years after the Law of Historical Memory was approved, there is still a long list of things to be done. The first is still to locate, exhume and deliver to their families the remains of tens of thousands of Spanish people who, 65 years after the end of the Civil War and 39 after the end of the dictatorship, remain buried in mass graves in cemeteries or in ditches beside minor roads.
According to the investigation carried out by former judge Baltasar Garzón, 114,226 people disappeared between 1936 and 1951 as a result of repression by the regime, but associations for “historical memory”, (groups fighting for the victims of the crimes of the Civil War and Franco regime to be remembered and given decent burials) believe the real figure is higher.
Since 2000 the remains of around 6,000 murder victims have been recovered. Of these, 2,800 were exhumed from the old San Rafael cemetery in Malaga, where 4,400 executions are believed to have been carried out.
Article 11 of the Law of Historic Memory stipulates that “the public administrations, within their powers, will make available to direct descendants of the victims, who so request it, information regarding the activities of investigating, locating and identifying the people who disappeared violently during the Civil War or the later political repression and whose whereabouts are unknown”. The text only stipulates that the State should help the families, not that it is responsible for exhuming the Spaniards who were killed.
Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH), says no progress has been made as a result of this law coming into force.
“The main problem has always been the same and this ‘decaffeinated’ law has not resolved it. This should be the State’s responsibility, not that of the victims’ children or grandchildren,” he insists.
In July, a strongly-worded report from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances outlined this reality. It indicated that since the return of democracy “important, but tentative, steps have been taken to ensure truth, justice, atonement, and memory about the enforced disappearances during the Civil War and the dictatorship”, but the UN team also pointed out that, in accordance with the international law to which Spain is a signatory, the State must assume responsibility and “a leadership role” in the recovery of those who disappeared.
To resolve the present situation, the United Nations has made a series of recommendations including adopting, as soon as possible, a national search plan for the people who disappeared. Although the report gives a period of 90 days for Spain to produce a calendar to this effect, this is not binding and no sanctions may be imposed on Spain if the government does not comply.
Lack of funding
One of the biggest problems in the search and exhumation of the victims is a lack of funds. When the Socialist government was in power it awarded 25 million euros in grants for “historical memory”. Emilio Silva says this money enabled them “to take on two or three people and act more quickly”.
The last time funding was granted was in 2011. In April 2012 the Conservative government promised that the grants for “historical memory” would continue, but would only be used for exhumations. Despite this announcement, the funding was dropped from the 2013 budget.
Now, the associations are continuing their activity as best they can. For example, the next excavations carried out by ARMH will be financed by a 6,000 euro donation from a Norwegian syndicate.
“Between 2000 and 2007, the exhumations were carried out without the use of public money,” says Emilio Silva, who insists that the work will continue. The advantage the associations have, he explains, is that although they do not have money, they do have the cooperation of forensic scientists, psychologists, anthropologists and archeologists.
“There are some highly qualified people we cannot pay, but who help us voluntarily,” says the founder of the ARMH.
The principal expense is the cost of the DNA tests that are carried out to identify the people who have been exhumed. For this, the ARMH has the help of a laboratory “where they are very good to the association” and an NGO in Argentina which carries out some of the analyses without charging.
The map of the graves
The Law of Historical Memory ordered a map to be drawn up for the whole of Spain, showing the location of the 2,000 mass graves discovered so far. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for producing this map and keeping it updated from the information supplied by the different regions.
From the beginning, the associations detected different reactions to the matter. While Andalucía has responded wholeheartedly other regions such as Valencia have cooperated to a lesser extent, so the map does not show a reliable picture of the extent of the repression. Nevertheless, although it is incomplete, the map does show that the shootings and killings took place all over the country.
The ARMH believes that this map was used by the Socialist government in a partisan manner “to make it look as if they were doing something, but in fact they did nothing to recover those who died from the repression”, says Emilio Silva. “It is another example of the policy of talking about something instead of doing anything about it,” he adds.
From his own experience and his dealings with hundreds of families of victims, Emilio knows that even though decades may have passed, the killing of a father “is never far from your mind”. His grandfather was killed for defending the opening of a secular State-run school in his village. “Because of that political cause, they shot him twice in the head and left him in a ditch for 64 years,” he says.
Emilio points out that once the war was over, the victims of what the regime called “Marxist hordes” were exhumed. Those who had survived were given grants and jobs in the Administration, “but those in the other group are still waiting for compensation”. He believes that something has to be done about this now, because “the disappearances should not be used in a partisan way and the search for the victims should become an objective for society as a whole, and part of a State policy," he says.