Spain: Truth commission to investigate Franco regime’s crimes against humanity

Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco

Spain’s new government has announced it will launch a truth commission to investigate crimes against humanity committed under the regime of Francisco Franco, more than 40 years after he died.

The criminal records of dissidents will be wiped while the organisations venerating the military dictator, including Fundación Francisco Franco, will be made illegal under new laws.

Foundation members are known to lay fresh flowers on Franco’s grave every day and celebrate his life on their website.

The dictator came to power after the 1936-39 civil war and remained in office until his death in 1975.

Justice minister Dolores Delgado, told the parliament: “It’s not acceptable that people in their 90s who are desperately trying to recover their parents’ remains should be blocked by a judge or the arbitrary ruling of a local authority.

“Nor is it acceptable that Spain is, after Cambodia, the country with the highest number of disappeared in the world.”

An earlier historical memory law was passed by the socialist government in 2007, imposing on the state a duty to help people trace and exhume relatives who were buried in unmarked graves.

However, that support was withdrawn when the People’s Party was elected in 2011.

Under the current proposals, the government’s commission will take the lead itself.

José María “Chato” Galante, who was convicted almost 50 years ago of “illicit association” and “illegal propaganda” and who was jailed for seven years and tortured, told The Guardian: “If our sentences are annulled we will no longer be branded as criminals and some sort of normality will be restored after a 40-year delay.”

He added: “This is a positive step but none of it makes sense unless the torturers and those who committed crimes against humanity are brought to justice.”

It is estimated that 140,000 people disappeared during and after the Spanish Civil War, not including those killed in combat. Spain is the only democracy that has failed to investigate state terrorism after a dictatorship has come to an end, despite repeated demands from the United Nations.