Judge Baltasar Garzón orders the opening of mass graves

The Civil War remains a touchy subject in Spain, opinion divided on whether investigation into this dark period of Spanish history helps people to ‘come to terms’ with the past or whether it ‘reopens old wounds’.

However, judge Baltasar Garzón has declared himself competent to investigate the disappearance of countless thousands of people, many of whom are buried in mass graves, both during the Civil War (1936-1939) and during the rest of the Franco period. His argument, which he put forward in a 68 page ruling, is that it involves a crime of illegal permanent detention without reason and this falls within the category of crimes against humanity.

This will be the first time that a judge has investigated the Civil War.

Judge Baltasar Garzón has, for some long time, been requesting information from autonomous regions, central government, associations of relatives of missing persons and other organisations for lists of those who ‘disappeared’.

Judge Garzón is now investigating the fate of 114,000 people who disappeared during the period 1936 to 1951 and has ordered the opening of 19 mass graves, one of which is believed to contain the remains of the poet Federico García Lorca. He has also named General Franco and 34 of his most senior aides as instigators of the alleged crimes, even requesting to view their death certificates in order to prove that they can no longer face prosecution.

He has also asked the interior ministry to provide names of senior members of the fascist Falange Party, which supported Franco, during the period July 3rd 1936 to December 3rd 1951with a view to possible prosecutions.

It will be interesting to see how far the investigation goes. Judge Baltasar is a forthright, determined and formidable character, he has shown that on many occasions, but this latest step could be a little different, and more controversial. Add to this the fact that, although there is now the Law of Historical Memory, itself not without controversy and opposition, it is widely believed by many, though naturally unconfirmed, that there has been a tacit agreement among political parties not to delve too deeply into the civil war and Franco era.

Incidentally, of the 114,000 people who ‘disappeared’, generally assumed to have just been systematically taken away and executed, 32,289 were in Andalucía.

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