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Judge orders exhumation of Spanish civil war mass graves

Baltasar Garzón orders 19 mass graves from civil war to be exhumed

The High Court Judge, Baltasar Garzón, has declared that the investigations into disappearances during the Spanish Civil War should continue. In a 68 page document published today he refers to illegal permanent detentions being within the context of crimes against humanity.

As part of the investigations the judge has ordered that 19 mass graves should be exhumed, including the one believed to contain the remains of Federico García, following requests made by the relatives of other victims shot dead together with the poet.

Garzón has ordered that a group of seven experts be created to organize the search and localization of the bodies of people who disappeared during the civil war. This group is also in charge of analyzing the number of bodies, the place and identification of the victims and must present a report with the total number of bodies found.

Garzon will also look for those responsible for war crimes and has therefore asked to see the death certificates of Franco and another 34 high ranking officials from his regime such as the ‘General’ or ‘Serrano Suñer’.

Garzon said that unexplained disappearances still continue to be a crime today. He believes that it is within the competence of the High Court to investigate cases because the root causes began with the national uprising which comes under the context of crimes against state organizations.

The accusations were presented in June 2007 by 22 associations for Historic Memory and ten individuals that asked for investigations into disappearances, assassinations, torture and forced exile to be opened dating back to 1936. They also asked for the state to make reparations for the violation of international human Rights.

On September 1st this year Garzón asked institutions such as the Valle de los Caídos, the Conferencia Episcopal Española (CEE), the Centro Documental de Memoria Histórica and the town halls of Madrid, Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba to draw up lists of victims and to provide information on disappearances during the Civil War.

Garzón has defended his decision saying that the action ordered is similar to that of other cases of unexplained disappearances such as ‘Nany’ or Publio Cordón.
However, the public prosecutors office will appeal against Garzon’s decision because it considers that the crimes committed during the Civil War and the dictatorship to come under the protection of the 1977 Amnesty Law. The Ministerio Publico has also challenged Garzon’s decision because this government body believes that the crimes under investigation do not come under the jurisdiction of the Spanish High Court and should be investigated in the places where they occurred.