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Organisations claim to open mass graves to identify 4,700 missing, 80 years after Spanish Civil War

The location and identity of 4,700 disappeared during Spanish Civil War remains unknown, 80 years after the conflict broke out. In order to recover historic memory and prevent these facts and its consequences from being forgotten or neglected, many organisations have claimed to reopen mass graves and cancel the martial courts applied to many citizens who were against Franco's dictatorship. "Spain continues to be the second country in the world, after Cambodia, with the higher number of people who underwent enforced disappearance and whose mortal remains have never been recovered nor identified", stated ‘Judges for Democracy' spokeswoman, Begoña López. 

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18 July 2016 12:52 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- 80 years after the Spanish Civil War broke out, there are still 4,700 disappeared and many martial-courts applied to civil citizens who were against Franco's dictatorship have never been annulled. These are two of the main claims put forth by the organisations working to recover historic memory and prevent these facts and its consequences from being forgotten or neglected. One of the priorities is to reopen 373 mass graves in Catalonia and exhume the bodies, so that they can be properly buried. "Spain continues to be the second country in the world, after Cambodia, with the higher number of people who underwent enforced disappearance and whose mortal remains have never been recovered nor identified", stated ‘Judges for Democracy' spokeswoman, Begoña López.


According to the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory's President, Manel Perona, the "main priority" now is reopening the mass graves, a matter of "urgency", according to Perona, since there are 373 mass graves in Catalonia, “159 confirmed and the rest to be verified”.

Once the mass graves could be reopened, the bodies could be exhumed and identified, a process which will be possible thanks to the DNA of the missing's relatives. The Universitat de Barcelona has played a key role in this process, since its DNA Bank has been collecting blood samples of the missing's relatives for the last 4 years. In this vein, DNA Bank's director Carme Barrot urged to "change the law on mass graves", since it was made for "preventing the graves to be opened". She also called for the mass graves' map to be deeply reviewed. "It is not accurate; we still miss 373 mass graves which are supposed to be there".

Regarding the costs of these procedures, Barrot urged the Catalan Government to fund the task carried out so far by the DNA Bank and to set the identification protocols which will be followed from now on. "To draw blood [from the remains] costs 150 euros to the relatives. Both this cost and the custody of the samples should be assumed by the Government", she stated.

In a similar vein, ‘Judges for Democracy's spokeswoman, Begoña López, urged the Spanish state to carry out "an official investigation" to find out the exact number of unidentified victims. "It is the Spanish Government's duty to do so, as it signed the UN convention", stated López and added that "a democratic state can't bear to have such an amount of missing people". 

Nullity of the martial courts

Another historical claim, 80 years after Franco's coup, is to invalidate those martial-courts applied to the victims of Franco's dictatorship's reprisal. Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory's, together with Catalonia's Commission for Dignity, an NGO that aims to return the documents confiscated by Franco's troops at the end of the Spanish Civil War to their rightful owners in Catalonia, handed a bill to the Catalan Parliament asking for the Chamber to "assume its historic responsibility" and nullify the trails carried out during Francoism. "The Catalan Government is legally committed to do so", added Perona. These two organisations also urged to review the current legislation on this matter, so that the process to open mass graves could be carried out faster and easier, rather than "waiting for the relatives' explicit claim".

In the same vein, López stated that after Franco's uprising "there hasn't been any policy to support the victims" since everything in relation to that has been done "thanks to the families' determination". She lamented that although the Spanish state "is legally forced" to restore the victims' dignity and invalidate the martial courts "it is not likely to happen since the Spanish state is not willing to do so".

"Spain has to apologise"

According to Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory's President, Manel Perona, "Spain has to apologise, as Germany and France did after the Second World War". On the other hand, Maria Salvo, a victim of Francoist reprisal and former president of the Women Association of 1936, bids for justice. "I don't want an apology, I want justice by annulling the martial courts, like mine", she stated. "We were civil citizen, not military and I didn't commit any crime", she denounced. "I was sentenced to 15 years in prison to avoid potential crimes in the future".

"The Spanish State should apologise but this is not enough: it has to start a policy to recover the mortal remains of the 100,000 missing”, stated Begoña López. We'll have a huge democratic deficit until we close this pending issue".

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  • Commemorative banner of the Civil War 80th anniversary and the marks of artillery shelling on the walls of Plaça Sant Felip Neri on the background (by ACN)

  • Commemorative banner of the Civil War 80th anniversary and the marks of artillery shelling on the walls of Plaça Sant Felip Neri on the background (by ACN)