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UN panel to investigate whether Spain is helping Franco regime victims

Rights and memory groups will present the experts with the names of 130,000 disappeared people

The United Nations on Thursday announced that it will send a commission to Madrid next week to examine whether the Spanish government is complying with international obligations to investigate the disappearances of people that occurred during the Civil War (1936-39) and subsequent Franco regime.

In a statement, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said it will look at the measures taken by Spain and “analyze in particular issues related to truth, justice, reparation and memory for victims of enforced disappearances.”

The announcement comes just one day after an Argentinean judge issued international arrest warrants for four former mid-level officers who are accused of torturing Spaniards during the later years of Franco’s dictatorship. The Buenos Aires court opened an investigation into the crimes based on the universal justice doctrine after the victims and their families filed a lawsuit in 2010.

Representatives from the Commission for Truth Platform and the Social and Democratic Memory Association said Thursday that they will present the UN working group with a dossier containing 130,000 cases of people who disappeared during the Civil War and Franco regime. They hope the group will insist that the government “take seriously” the investigation and agree to open the 2,800 common graves scattered around the country that have not been excavated.

Given that the crimes have not been clarified, we are going to give this group the testimonies of the victims"

Jaime Ruiz Reig, who presides over both organizations, said that the current government has refused to make reparations to the victims and the judiciary has used the amnesty laws introduced when democracy was restored as a shield from prosecuting any ex-Franco official.

“Given the current situation that the victims of Franco are going through and given that the crimes have not been clarified and justice, truth and reparation are warranted, we are going to give this group the testimonies of the victims,” said Reig.

The UN panel, which will conduct research for one week beginning Monday, will also travel to Catalonia, Andalusia and the Basque Country.

“In Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Vitoria, the experts will meet with authorities and officials from the state and the autonomous communities [regional governments], relatives of disappeared persons, representatives of civil society organizations, lawyers and academics. The Working Group will also visit memorial sites,” the statement said.

A final report on Spain is expected to be presented to the United Nations next year.

Reig said that his organizations will also press the missing babies cases in which hundreds of newborn infants were allegedly kidnapped from hospitals across the country after their mothers were told that they had died at birth. The kidnappings allegedly took place from the mid-1940s into the 1980s.

The visit will be conducted by two members of the Working Group, Jasminka Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ariel Dulitzky of Argentina, and will be accompanied by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.