Judge Baltasar Garzón withdraws from Civil War investigations

National Court Judge Baltasar Garzón has announced that he will no longer be investigating the Civil War and Franco era ‘disappearances’, adding that any further searches for the burial sites of victims will be in the hands of the local and regional courts.

On October 16th, Judge Garzón declared himself competent to launch an investigation after receiving complaints from family members of the disappeared, arguing that the killings and disappearances constituted crimes against humanity and therefore are not subject to the statute of limitations.

He then issued an order to unearth several mass graves, including one in Granada thought to contain the body of poet Federico García Lorca. In addition, Judge Garzón intended to investigate General Franco and 44 members of his regime as being responsible for the atrocities.

However, the Civil War and the Franco era reprisals are still very much of a touch subject in Spain and the judge’s actions divided the nation.

Government lawyers questioned the competence of Judge Garzón to carry out such an investigation and the National Court ordered a temporary halt to the exhumations until the matter was resolved. It has always been rumoured that, although the Law of Historical Memory is now in operation, there was an unofficial ‘understanding’ between all political parties not to dig too deeply into the past.

In stepping down, judge Garzón stated that General Franco and his aides could no longer be held criminally liable for the crimes as they were all dead. He did, however, suggest that any further investigations should be expanded to include the tracing of thousands of children who, during the 1940’s, were forcibly taken from their parents to be indoctrinated.

The judge also made a point of stressing that he still does not agree with the Prosecutors Office who say that the statute of limitations applies in these investigations.

The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory is none too happy with the current situation and are thought to be considering taking the matter to the Court of Human Rights. Their experiences in dealing with local courts, now responsible for any further searches, have not exactly been positive in the past, their inquiries often being met with resistance or indifference.

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