A Spanish Truth Commission?

Written by Joel Blanco-Rivera, Assistant Professor of Archives at Simmons College

One of the most important events in human rights in the past decades was the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in October 1998. Using the principle of universal jurisdiction, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain’s National Court issued the arrest warrant. While Pinochet never stood trial, this action opened the doors for other investigations in Spain, including the genocide case against Guatemalan former president General Efraín Ríos Montt. During the time of the Pinochet investigation, the National Court was also investigating human rights violations during Argentina’s military junta years (1976-1983).

But what about Spain’s own past? From 1936 to 1975 Francisco Franco ruled the country and his dictatorship produced tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances. Estimates put the number of disappeared around 130,000. In 1977, Spain’s government signed an Amnesty Law that is still in force. As Madeleine Davis explains, the country’s transition from franquismo has been characterized as a “pact of oblivion.”[1] Yet, the memories of Franco’s dictatorship have not been erased. Groups such as the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory  have advocated for the identification, exhumation and truth about the disappeared.

On September 29, 2012, organizations for the recovery of the memory and victims of franquismo agreed to propose a Spanish Truth Commission. On December 1st the groups released the “Manifiesto encuentro estatal plataforma por la Comisión de la Verdad sobre los crímenes del franquismo.” The document states the following:

The truth about the crimes under Franco is a right and an indispensable instrument for the consolidation of Spain’s democracy, but also for future generations, who have the right and responsibility of truth. (Translated by Joel Blanco-Rivera)

One of the proposals in this platform is the repeal of all legislations and other dispositions that prevent or limits access to archival documents about the Franco period.

For more information, please see the proposal document, available in Spanish, here.

[1] Madeline Davis, “Is Spain Recovering its Memory? Breaking the Pacto del Olvido,” Human Rights Quarterly 27, no. 3 (August 2005): 863.