Spain to locate graves of Civil War victims

2nd September 2008, Comments 0 comments

A high court judge will start collecting data from Franco-era files to locate the bodies and graves of victims killed in the Civil War.

2 September 2008

MADRID -- Almost 70 years after the end of the Civil War, Spain could soon discover the identities and burial places of many of the estimated 90,000 people who disappeared during the devastating three-year conflict, after High Court judge Baltasar Garzon announced Monday that he will start collecting war-era information from government archives, churches and city halls.

The high-profile judge's effort to compile a census of Civil War victims comes as the High Court mulls whether to accept a case brought by victims' groups calling for Spain to locate all mass graves and the burial locations of all people killed in the war.

Among the plaintiffs whose cases have yet to be heard are Civil War survivors and relatives of victims from the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon.

Their lawsuits follow the approval by Congress in 2007 of the Law of Historical Memory, a series of legislative measures intended to provide redress to victims of the Civil War and the Franco regime.

Though the law has so far failed to live up to the expectations of many of the families affected, victims groups were keen to support Garzon's decision Monday.

"This is a dream come true - it is great news," exclaimed Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory.

"This is the beginning of a process that will produce results... Wherever [Garzon] pokes around he will find something."

Silva said he hopes Garzon's preliminary inquiries will lead to the High Court agreeing to hear victims' lawsuits and to the creation of a "truth commission."

Garzon has asked the government and several city halls, including those of Granada, Cordoba, Seville and Madrid, to dig through their archives for records of people killed in combat, executed or declared missing during the war.

Spain's bishops have also been asked to open their death and burial records in Spain's 22,000 parishes.

Additional inquiries will also be made to determine the identities of people buried at the Valle de los Caidos, a mausoleum built outside Madrid by Republican prisoners where Franco's remains lay.

[El Pais / Manuel Altozano / Expatica]

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