Spain’s New Democratic Memory Law Aims to Bring Justice to Victims of Franco’s Era


Spain’s Democratic Memory Law came into force on Friday, aiming to uncover what happened during the Spanish Civil War and under Franco’s rule while bringing justice to the victims.

“Citizens have the inalienable right to understand the historical truth about the violence and terror imposed by the Franco regime, as well as the values ​​and acts of democratic resistance,” reads the 55-page legislation published in the official gazette. Spanish.

Between 1939 and 1975, Francisco Franco governed Spain after the Spanish Civil War. After his death, Spain became a democracy.

A key part of the bill includes the search for the estimated 140,000 civilians who have been victims of enforced disappearance over the nearly four-decade span. For these purposes, the government must create a map of disappearances and a national DNA bank to help identify bodies unearthed from mass graves.

The law also erases the names of all those convicted of political crimes by Franco’s courts and abolishes 33 titles of nobility granted by the regime.

As of Friday, the Valley of the Fallen, once a massive mausoleum of Franco before his body was removed in 2019, changed its name to Valley of Cuelgamuros, as required by law.

The monument contains the remains of hundreds of war victims, as well as other right-wing leaders such as José Antonio Primo de Rivera. By law, anyone other than war victims will be exhumed.

While the bill also stipulates that organizations engaged in apologizing for Franco will be shut down, Spain’s National Francisco Franco Foundation, established in 1976 to protect the dictator’s legacy, is still online. He promises that any attempt to shut down will be met with a fierce legal battle.

At the same time, the bill guarantees free and universal access to public and private archives related to the war and the dictatorship.

What is taught in Spanish schools will also be updated to reflect “the repression that took place during the war and the dictatorship”.

The law is a milestone for Spain’s leftist coalition government, which insists it will strengthen the foundations of human rights.

But conservative People’s Party politicians have pledged to repeal the law when they take office. Party leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo said the bill goes against the 1977 amnesty law, also known as the pact of oblivion, which he said helped the Spain to go to democracy.

The new legislation does not override the 1977 law, but emphasizes that international humanitarian law prevails, meaning war crimes and crimes against humanity are not eligible for amnesty.

While many family members of regime victims have come out in favor of the bill, others say it does not go far enough.

In comments to Anadolu Agency, Emilio Silva, head of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, criticized the bill for not once mentioning the role of the Catholic Church.

He also pointed out that while institutions repressed under Franco are entitled to compensation, “people who had their homes, lands and savings taken away…will not receive a penny in return.”

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