Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Moves towards official recognition of victims of Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship

by Kathryn Hadley

More than seventy years after the outbreak of the conflict, the cabinet of Zapatero announced last week plans for new legislation designed to offer official recognition and compensation to the victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. The measures follow the promulgation eight months ago of the Ley de Memoria, the Law of Historical Memory.

The new laws will recognise those who were imprisoned, persecuted or executed as “victims” and grant their relatives the right to apply for a certificate of recognition. They may also grant up to 135,000 Euros (£100,000) compensation for those who were condemned by military courts between 1968 until Franco’s death in November 1975, as a result of alleged opposition to the dictatorship.

oreover, the measures are said to include formal recognition of the role of foreign volunteers during the Civil War and will make it easier for the surviving members of the International Brigades to obtain Spanish nationality. (Less than 200, however, of the estimated 32,000 foreign volunteers who fought alongside the republicans are believed to still be alive).

The announcement represents a considerable step for the victims of the Civil War and the dictatorship, in the sense that it is the first document produced by the Spanish state to recognise the injustices suffered by
those condemned under Franco and to argue for their necessary compensation.

Nevertheless, problems remain and further steps are yet to be taken. Most significantly, those unjustly condemned under Franco’s dictatorship demand the reversal of their convictions. This particular grievance is largely a result of a specificity of the Franco dictatorship: when Franco came to power, there was no official break with the previous regime. Consequently, any rulings passed under the dictatorship did not automatically become invalid following Franco’s death.

Moreover, the government has promised a map identifying the sites of the mass graves used during the dictatorship and little has been done to ensure the enforcement of article 15 of the Ley de Memoria, which stipulates that all symbols of the regime should be removed from town halls and churches.

The issue of compensation and recognition appears to remain caught in the web of local political convictions. In A Coruña, for example, the newly elected socialist government has rapidly begun to change churches and hospitals dedicated to members of the Falange; in Santander, however, where the centre-right Partido Popular is in power, statues of Franco still stand.

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