Spain’s ‘systematic’ failure to address historical memory denounced at EU-Parliament

27.04.2017 - 16:25

On the 80th anniversary of the Guernica Bombing, Spain’s denial of historical justice or reparation of its civil war victims was the focus of a conference at the European Parliament. NGO’s, relatives of Spanish Civil War victims and the Francoist dictatorship, and MEPs called on the European Parliament to help promote “truth, justice, and reparation”. Roger Heredia, co-founder of the DNA bank for civil war victim identification in Catalonia said that “the Spanish State systematically violates human rights” and insisted on the necessity of raising awareness among the European MPs about how Spain ignores reports from both the Human Rights Council and the UN-Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Heredia also reminded the audience that Spain is ranked second in the world in the total number of enforced disappearances. He said it was a shame that there “is no justice in Spain” for Francoist victims. “The Spanish government will not change. They do not feel guilty. They have never asked for forgiveness. Our only hope is the European Parliament,” he added. After the conference, several MEPs and participants presented a manifesto urging Spain to fulfill its historical memory obligations.

During the conference, several speakers from different areas and countries underlined the importance of historical memory processes. Maria Bohigas, the granddaughter of Catalan writer Joan Sales, explained the important role that literature and writings play in recovering history, precisely in a case like Spain, where the winners of the war made a deliberate effort to eliminate any remnants of memories of the defeated. Another clear speaker was Marilia Villaverde, coordinator of the Portuguese organization Resistance against Fascism (URAP), whose objective is to recover the historical memory of the Salazar dictatorship. In a statement to ACN, Villaverde celebrated the initiative of several MEPs to present a resolution urging Spain to fulfill its obligations in historical justice and highlighted the necessity for European Institutions to be actively involved in solving these kinds of issues. Several Spanish associations participated in the event, including the Spanish Human Rights Organisation and the victims association Nuestra Memoria (Our Memory) as well as the Federal Commissioner of the Stasi Records Agency, Roland Jahn, who explained the process of recovering hidden Stasi files and the reparation of communist regime victims.

The event was hosted by the the group for Historical Remembrance in Spain at the European Parliament. MEPs from Catalonia, the Basque country, Valencia, and Andalusia presented a manifesto against the Spanish State’s impunity and demanded that “Spain change its historical memory policies in order to promote truth, justice, and reparation, which are an obligatory European standard”. The text also highlights that “the Francoist repression is not an issue of the past” and that its consequences are still very present in Spanish society and still provoke suffering”.

“Our streets are still full of Francoist symbols, which offend the victims. People still render homage and exalt the dictatorship, despite this being expressly prohibited by EU-legislation.” The manifesto also points out that “thousands of relatives are still searching for their loved ones” and that some victim’s families still have to face “the hostility of some administrations and particularly of the judiciary”.

Catalonia is different

On the other hand, Roger Heredia, the representative of the civil war victim identification DNA bank in Catalonia, emphasized the support of Catalan institutions to recover the remains of those who disappeared during the war and the dictatorship. “I have to admit that Catalonia is indeed a different country,” he said. Heredia celebrated the Catalan government’s “highly democratic attitude and strong commitment” in promoting historical memory projects and particularly with the development of a genetic identification databank.

Only a few days ago, the Generalitat had announced the investigation of a mass grave in the town of Prats de Lluçanès this summer. It will be the second mass grave opened out of a total of six in the area, according to the Catalan Government’s mass graves map. In 2004, the first mass grave in the area had been opened, and one of the seven bodies that it contained had been able to be identified. On Tuesday, the Catalan Government representative for Institutional Relation and Relations with Parliament, Carme Garcia, participated in an homage to the six unidentified people. Garcia underlined the Catalan Government’s commitment to help identify these victims by cross-checking their genetic data with participants in the government’s Program for Genetic Identification of the Disappeared during the Civil War and the Francoist dictatorship. Garcia admitted that this process is coming late but that it was necessary to fight for human rights so that the dark episodes in history are not repeated.

In the town of La Garriga, near Barcelona, the town council has contacted 33 town councils in different parts of Spain to help identify the remains of the people buried in the mass grave created there during the Civil War. According to the town council, the local historian Joan Garriga has extensively researched the mass grave for his book, which has greatly contributed to recovering the town’s historical memory.


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