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Enforcement of Article 155 halts exhumation of Civil War mass graves

The recent discovery of 35 bodies in an old cemetery in western Catalonia will be the last of its kind because of the Spanish suspension of self-rule, according to Catalan Foreign Affairs department


21 November 2017 02:09 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Exhumations of Civil War mass graves in Catalonia have been cut off. The Spanish takeover of Catalonia’s self-rule by the enforcement of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution has led to the termination of some Catalan government programs. Among them, those dedicated to identifying Civil War soldiers’ remains, unidentified and in mass graves for over 80 years, according to a Catalan Foreign Affairs Department source.

Catalan executive’s 2017-2018 mass graves plan, halted

Two weeks before the enforcement of Article 155, works in an old cemetery in western Catalonia started. After one month, on Monday it was announced that the remains of more than 30 soldiers of both sides of the Spanish Civil War had been found. Yet, Catalan government sources said that this discovery would be the last one of its kind, due to the Spanish takeover. The 2017-2018 mass graves plan promoted by the Catalan government has so far identified 129 new mass graves throughout the country and 101 corpses have been found.

The archeologist in charge of the dig in the old cemetery, Anna Camats, said that the soldiers in the mass grave had come from two military hospitals that were set up in the town during the Battle of the Ebro. While the remains of some 35 individuals have been uncovered so far, there is more of the grave to be excavated. In fact, everything points to the grave containing as many as 100 bodies, which would make it the largest to be opened so far.  

Spain, second country in the world with the most mass graves

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was won by fascist forces, which established a military dictatorship that only ended when its leader, Francisco Franco, died in 1975. More than 40 years later, it is still the subject of intense debate in Catalan and Spanish politics, as most of the 2,000 mass graves in Spain are yet to be exhumed. This is despite the Historical Memory Law passed 9 years ago obliging the Spanish government to aid in the exhumation of wartime burial sites containing unidentified bodies.

Spain is the second country in the world with the most mass graves after Cambodia, according to different sources. One of the most well-known people still to be disinterred is Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca, who was killed by the fascist side in August 1936.


  • Archeologists working on the old western Catalonia cemetery of Soleràs

  • Archeologists working on the old western Catalonia cemetery of Soleràs