Spain blocks investigations of Franco-era crimes

The Spanish authorities are not investigating crimes under international law committed during the Civil War and Franco period, sending the message that impunity for human rights abuses is allowed, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

Time passes, impunity remains examines how the Spanish authorities have refused to investigate tens of thousands of killings and disappearances committed during the Civil War by both parties to the conflict and under Francisco Franco’s rule (1936-1975). It is also not cooperating with other countries, such as Argentina, that have opened their own investigations into Spain’s historical abuses.

“The fact that Spain is neither investigating nor cooperating with proceedings relating to crimes committed during the Civil War by both parties to the conflict or under Franco is a slap in the face of all the relatives of those who were abused and disappeared at the time,” said Esteban Beltrán, Director of Amnesty International Spain.

“We have seen a tendency for these cases to be closed without further investigation but the situation has worsened recently after the Supreme Court ruled that it was not for Spanish judges to prosecute these crimes. The only avenue of judicial investigation available in Spain it seems to be shut down.”

The Spanish judiciary is refusing to conduct investigations, and complaints filed by the victims are being closed.

In November 2008, the Spanish National High Court said it didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the criminal complaint brought in 2006 for killings and 114,266 enforced disappearances committed in Spain between 1936 and 1951, favouring regional courts taking on the cases instead.

Since then, Amnesty International has found that at least 38 of the 47 cases referred to regional courts have been closed.

On 27 February 2012, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that it was impossible to investigate crimes committed during the Civil War and under Franco’s rule saying, amongst other things, that they are covered by the Amnesty Law and they are subject to a statute of limitations.

Spain has also obstructed victims from testifying before the Argentinean judge responsible for a case ongoing in that country since 2010 and the Spanish Attorney-General’s Office is failing to cooperate with the case.

Amnesty International urged authorities in Spain, in particular the Attorney General’s Office, to investigate and prosecute crimes or offences under international law and to assist fully with any request for cooperation it receives from foreign courts that decide to investigate these crimes.