Volunteers dig up Civil War secrets

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The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM) starts dig at Mayorga Wednesday in identifying those killed in the war.

4 September 2008

MADRID -- On Monday High Court judge Baltasar Garzon - famous for having nearly succeeded in extraditing Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet - announced he will collect information on the estimated 90,000 who disappeared feared dead during the Spanish Civil War and at the start of the Franco dictatorship, in the hope of identifying their corpses, many of which were buried long ago in mass graves.

Despite the opposition to the idea - politicians from the Popular Party have described the initiative as "outrageous" and an "enormous mistake" - there are still plenty of people dedicated to the cause of identifying those killed in the war.

Wednesday saw a dig at Mayorga, in the northern Spanish province of Valladolid, by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARHM). The group is made up of volunteers dedicated to uncovering evidence of the killings that followed the Civil War, which was waged from 1936 to 1939.

Coinciding with Garzon's plans to create a missing persons archive, the government has taken steps to put into action the clause of the Historical Memory Law which allows victims and their relatives to seek moral redress for repression suffered during the Civil War or under the Franco regime.

Even though the government has made no effort to publicise the fact that victims and relatives may seek such recognition, 90 people have already sent in their petitions, and more will now be expected to do the same.

In the coming weeks, the Justice Ministry will hand over the regulatory formula to be used in granting moral redress to the State Council, an advisory board, for review.

After this body's approval, the Justice Ministry will proceed to hand out official certificates in which the government acknowledges moral redress.

It will be the first time  that Republican victims of the Civil War have been given official recognition.

When drafting the Memory Law, passed by Congress in 2007, the Socialist government's original plan was to set up a panel of five prominent officials chosen by parliament to consider victims' claims. But opposition from the Popular Party has led to a new formula being sought.

While the law acknowledges victims' suffering, it excludes the right to any financial compensation. Nor does the law declare null and void cases that were tried summarily under the Franco regime.

The case of Salvador Puig Antich is an example of relatives seeking unsuccessfully to overturn a ruling from the Franco era. Puig Antich, an anarchist, was sentenced to execution by a court in 1974 for allegedly murdering a policeman.

[El Pais / Expatica]

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