The Spanish Senate has approved a landmark bill that will ban expressions of support for former dictator Francisco Franco.
The new “Democratic Memory Law” will also enshrine the memory of Franco’s victims and also make the state responsible for finding those missing from the civil war.
The bill was approved by 128 deputies in the Senate on Wednesday, with 113 votes against and 18 abstentions.
The legislation had already been adopted by the Spanish parliament in July after a long debate.
It is the latest attempt by Spain’s socialist government to heal divisions in the country in the years since Franco’s death in 1975.
“We have always been committed to strengthening our democracy and today we are taking another step towards justice, reparation and dignity for all victims,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter after the vote.
In 2019, the Spanish government ordered for the the remains of the former dictator must be exhumed and removed of his monumental mausoleum near Madrid.
About 114,000 people are still missing after the civil war of the 1930s.
Civic movements have often taken on the responsibility of tracing and exhuming victims from mass or anonymous graves, without government funding.
But the “Democratic Memory Law” obliges the Spanish state government to search for the missing victims for the first time. A DNA bank will also be created in Spain to help find, identify and map victims of the Franco regime.
The law stipulates that “history cannot be built on the basis of oblivion and the silence of the vanquished [in the Civil War]”.
Organizations that praise or support the policies and leaders of Spain’s 20th century dictatorship, including the private Francisco Franco Foundation, will now be banned under the legislation.
All sentences handed down for political, religious or sexual reasons during the dictatorship will be annulled, and the babies that were stolen from Spanish republican families by the Franco regime will also be recognized as “victims”.
The bill will also appoint a special prosecutor’s office to investigate crimes against humanity during the civil war and dictatorship.
Previous attempts to bring Franco-era officials to justice in Spain were blocked by a 1977 amnesty law.
NGOs, including the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM), have called on Spain to repeal the 1977 law and provide more compensation to victims of the dictatorship.
But Spain’s main right-wing opposition Partido Popular (PP) has repeatedly accused the government of trying to rekindle past wounds and said it would repeal the new law if elected in 2023.
Spain’s former socialist government passed a law targeting ‘historical memory’ in 2007, but former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy boasted that he hadn’t used a single euro of public money to support the legislation.