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Spain’s inaction in reparations for Civil War and dictatorship crimes “alarming,” UN says

The whereabouts of more than 114,000 people remain unknown 40 years after the end of Franco's regime

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12 September 2017 02:47 PM

by

ACN | Brussels

Spain has failed to investigate the disappearances of civilians during the Civil War (1936-1939) and the subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-1975) according to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Its last report, published on Monday, states that Spain’s inaction is “alarming” and “especially worrying”.

Most of the requirements outlined in 2013 by the UN’s previous report have not yet been addressed, thus leaving families of the victims “to their own devices”. “To date, the Spanish state has not acted with either the urgency or the celerity needed in the matter of forced disappearances and it has also not assumed a leadership role to ensure a state policy in this issue, as was recommended,” read the report.

In 2013, the UN had already urged Spain to act immediately “given the lapse of time since most of the enforced disappearances began and the advanced age of many of the witnesses and family members”. As time passes without due action, the situation is “even more alarming”.

  • “To date, the Spanish state has not acted with either the urgency or the celerity needed in the matter of forced disappearances"

    Report of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearences

In its previous report, the UN accounted for 114,226 enforced disappearances between 1936 and 1951. Moreover, 30,960 children were systematically kidnapped from families who opposed Franco and given to his supporters. In Catalonia alone, the number is at least 4,000.

Improvement in Catalonia

The Catalan government launched a program to identify and open up mass graves, as well as a program to help families identify their missing relatives with genetic testing. So far, the remains of at least 164 people have been discovered.

“It’s impossible to understand how in 2017, some 80 years after that disgrace, hundreds of our people are still missing,” said the Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, at the excavation of a mass grave on September 1. “If we’re here today, late, it’s because in all this time there has been a clear will to institutionalize the lack of memory.”

The former head of the UN’s working group, Ariel Dulitzky, told ACN in April that the only place where the situation has improved is Catalonia. “We saw some progress that has continued after our visit. Due to the government’s inaction, the initiatives at the regional level are more relevant,” Mr. Dulitzky said.

Experts are “appalled” at the fact that to date, Spanish courts have not acted to bring the crimes of forced disappearances to justice. They see it as a “pattern of impunity based on arguments opposed to the principles derived from Spain’s international obligations”.

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  • Skeleton found in mass grave in Vilanova del Meià (by Estela Busoms)