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UN rights expert urges Spain to ensure justice for Franco era abuses

The UN international expert on transitional justice Pablo de Greiff on Wednesday, urged [press release] Spanish authorities to trust their democracy and "not postpone measures for justice, truth and reparation for the victims of human rights violations" committed during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War [BBC backgrounder] and the Franco era. Following his official visit to Spain, de Greiff praised the strength of Spain's institutions. However, de Greiff emphasized the value of investigating the crimes committed during the civil war: "The State must promote greater awareness on the obligation to protect the rights that the alleged perpetrators hold, as well as the victims' rights." In that regard, de Greiff recommended the establishment of a mechanism to "officialize' the truth, "to coordinate efforts and centralize information about all the victims, regardless of the side or political affiliation of the victims or the perpetrators." Existing policies in Spain have focused on victim reparation. However, there are demands to adopt programs which include categories of victims of human rights violations that are not covered by existing programs, including the annulment of the prison sentences given by courts during the Franco era.

Justice for offenses committed during the Franco regime has been slow. In November Spanish officials told the UN [JURIST report] that they will not reexamine the state's action during the Civil War and the Franco era. In October the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [official website] demanded [JURIST report] the Spanish government do more to provide information on the whereabouts of individuals who disappeared during the civil war and Franco regime periods. Also in October an Argentine judge issued warrants [JURIST report] for four former Spanish officials accused of human rights violations during the Franco regime. In September 2010 an appeals court in Argentina reopened [JURIST report] an investigation into crimes against humanity committed in Spain during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco regime. The case was brought to federal court in April 2010 [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed] by Argentinian relatives of Spanish citizens killed during the Franco regime. The Spanish Supreme Court charged National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] with abusing power by ordering the exhumation [JURIST report] of 19 mass graves in Spain to assemble a definitive national registry of Civil War victims, despite the 1977 law. He was acquitted in a 6-1 decision [JURIST report] by the Spanish Supreme Court [official website] in 2012.

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