Spain set to pass law to give justice to Franco victims

30th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 October 2007, MADRID - (AFP) - Spain's parliament is set to pass Wednesday a controversial law which would for the first time officially acknowledge the victims of its 1936-39 civil war and ensuing right-wing military dictatorship.

30 October 2007

MADRID - (AFP) - Spain's parliament is set to pass Wednesday a controversial law which would for the first time officially acknowledge the victims of its 1936-39 civil war and ensuing right-wing military dictatorship.

The Law of Historical Memory would declare "illegitimate" the verdicts of the summary trials which General Francisco Franco's regime held against people suspected of opposing it, paving the way for sentences to be declared null.

It would also ban political rallies from being held in honor of the dictator at the mausoleum outside Madrid where he is buried and require statues, plaques and other symbols of the regime to be removed from public buildings.

Churches and other private institutions with plaques commemorating Franco and the victims of his Republican opponents risk losing state aid if they refuse to remove them.

After months of wrangling, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's ruling Socialists earlier this month reached an agreement with several smaller parties over the terms of the law and its passage looks all but certain.

Only the main opposition Popular Party, which grew partly out of Francoist roots, opposes the law.

"Zapatero has brought division and confrontation and reopened the wounds of the past," the party's general secretary Angel Acebes said earlier this month.

But the prime minister, whose own grandfather was executed by Franco's forces during the war, argues the law "tries to give peace to people who have not had it".

Historians estimate about 500,000 from both sides were killed in the civil war, which was sparked by Franco's insurgency against the democratically elected left-wing republican government.

After Franco's victory, 50,000 republicans were executed by nationalist forces and tens of thousands were incarcerated.

Following his death in 1975, Spain granted an amnesty for crimes committed under the dictator's iron-fisted rule and all political parties tacitly agreed to put the war and regime behind them in order to ease the transition to democracy.

But in recent years this "pacto de olvido" or "pact of forgetting" began to break as associations emerged which sought to recover the remains of those shot and thrown into unmarked mass graves.

While Franco's regime honored its own dead, it left tens of thousands of its opponents buried in anonymous graves.

A general election will be held in March 2008 and polls show Spaniards remain uneasy about revisiting their painful recent past.

Nearly half, 48 percent, support the proposed law against 28 percent who oppose it, according to a recent survey conducted for Cadena Ser. Almost four in ten said the law was divisive.

Many victims of the civil war and dictatorship though feel the law does not go far enough, with their associations calling for decisions made by Franco's summary courts to be delcared void and not just "illegitimate".

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Subject: Spanish news

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