Trial of two Franco torturers is closer thanks to MEP letter
The Spanish Minister for Justice allowed the legal procedure regarding the extradition to Argentina of two Franco torturers to continue. This decision occurred after a letter written by a group of MEPs, led by Catalan and Spanish representatives, had asked the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the two men’s extradition. In their letter, the MEPs urged Spain to stop “hampering the progress of the Argentine justice”, which is currently investigating Franco crimes. Indeed a first unsuccessful request for the two men’s extradition had been made in 2010. Spanish High Court Judge Pablo Ruz is in charge of making the next move. For now, he has interrogated the two alleged torturers and confiscated their passports as a precautionary measure. However, there still are many steps to go before the extradition. In their letter to Rajoy, the MEPs had also demanded the repeal of the 1977 Spanish Amnesty Law which is used to prohibit Franco criminals from being prosecuted.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Minister for Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, allowed the legal procedure regarding the extradition of two alleged torturers of Franco’s dictatorship to continue. This decision occurred after an initiative was taken by Catalan and Spanish Members of the European Parliament Raül Romeva (Catalan Green Socialist Party - ICV) and Willy Meyer (United Left - IU), Along with 26 other MEPs, they addressed a letter to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy about a month ago, asking him for the extradition of these two former officers of Franco’s dictatorship. The MPs urged the Spanish Government, judges and prosecutors to stop their country from “hampering the progress of the Argentine justice”, which is currently in charge of investigating Franco crimes. Indeed, in 2010, a similar request for the two men’s extradition had been made by the Argentinean Judge in charge of the investigation, Maria Servini, only months after Argentina’s Judiciary had agreed to take on the investigation. However, this request was unsuccessful. Even though the Spanish Government’s decision currently represents a step forward, there still remain many steps to go before the extradition is finally approved. Nonetheless, the Executive’s decision has allowed High Court Judge Pablo Ruz to interrogate the two men, which he did last Thursday. Ruz is in charge of the next move and for the time being he has merely confiscated their passports as a precautionary measure to prevent them from leaving the country. However, he did not mention the idea of extradition. In their letter to Rajoy, the MEPs also demanded the repeal of the 1977 Amnesty Law which prohibits Franco criminals from being prosecuted. According to Willy Meyer, the repeal is necessary for the Spanish Government to “ensure the right to truth, justice and reparation for victims of Franco’s dictatorship.”
At the end of October, a total of 28 MEPs from eleven European Union Member States and four parliamentary groups (the United Left, Greens, Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) had turned to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the extradition of former member of the Guardia Civil officer Jesús Muñecas Aguilar and former Inspector Juan Antonio González Pacheco (known as Billy the Kid), both accused of torturing political prisoners during Franco’s regime. Jesús Muñecas Aguilar allegedly tortured a prisoner at the Zarautz police station in 1968 (in the Basque country) while Juan Antonio Gonzalez Pacheco might have tortured 13 people between 1971 and 1975.
The Catalan Greens MEP, Raül Romeva, who was the initiator of the call to Rajoy alongside United Left MEP Willy Meyer, stressed the importance of the letter and explained that “there can be no reconciliation without justice”, thereby restating that Franco Crimes could not be left unpunished as they still are to this day. Indeed, the 1977 Spanish Amnesty Law, which is still in force, has always prevented such crimes from being investigated and prosecuted.
In spite of legal procedure moving forward, extradition still is no certainty
Following the MEPs’ letter to Rajoy, the Spanish Minister for Justice, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, has allowed the legal extradition procedure to continue. After this announcement, High Court Judge Pablo Ruz interrogated the two former officers and confiscated their passports, ordering them to remain on Spanish soil and to report to him on a weekly basis. He stated that if the two men did not comply with these instructions, they could very well face more drastic measures.
Even though Alberto Ruiz Gallardón’s decision represents a step forward in the legal procedure, it will not necessarily result in the extradition of the alleged torturers to Argentina. Until this day, High Court Judge Pablo Ruz has not stated that the two men could be handed over to the Argentinean Judiciary. On the contrary, he has merely explained the precautionary measures taken to “prevent the possible flight risk and ensure the effectiveness of the principle of international cooperation”.
A first failed request for the two men’s extradition in 2010
The group of MEPs had demanded Rajoy to proceed with the extradition of two high-ranking officers. Such a request had already been made in 2010 by Maria Servini, the Argentinean Judge in charge of investigating Franco crimes. She had demanded, through Interpol, the arrest of both high-ranking officials for alleged torture crimes under Franco, along with two other presumed tortures, who, according to the Spanish National Court, have died before they could ever be prosecuted. This first request failed and therefore, this time around, the group of MEPs had given another warning to Spain, urging the country to stop “hampering the progress of the Argentine justice”.
The MEPs also demanded the Spanish government to follow the recommendations of the United Nations by signing the Convention on the ‘Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity’.
Demands to repeal the 1977 Spanish Amnesty Law
According to the letter written by the MEPs, the prosecution maintains that Spain could be covered by the Amnesty Law, “which would prevent the extradition” of the torturers. The Spanish Amnesty Law, which was approved in 1977 during the Transition from dictatorship to democracy, is still in force nowadays. It was initially voted to release political prisoners who had opposed the dictatorship, but it also prohibited any crimes perpetrated by the Fascist military regime from being investigated and from going to trial And therefore, Franco crimes have never been investigated on Spanish soil and no criminals were ever convicted. “The Amnesty Law was designed to release political prisoners from jail, it was not meant for the People’s Party, the Spanish right-wing parties, the political powers as a whole to cover up crimes against humanity, torturers and to forget the hundreds of thousands of people who were oppressed, tortured, and murdered by the regime” stated IU MEP Willy Meyer.
The MEPs called for the repeal of the 1977 Amnesty Act, which is perceived as “the main obstacle in the fight against the impunity of the regime” and demanded the Spanish Government to guarantee “the right to truth, justice and reparation to the victims” of the dictatorship. They also reminded Rajoy that the Amnesty Law covered “political crimes and not crimes against humanity”, thereby suggesting that even if the law remained in force, it should not apply to perpetrators of Franco crimes. Such statements can be linked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ perception of the matter. In 2012, the validity of the law had already been questioned and the UN had come to the conclusion that it violated International Human Rights Law. Indeed, there is no statute of limitations for Crimes against Humanity.