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"Spain should trust its democracy and work for victims' rights" - UN expert on transitional justice
The UN international expert on transitional justice, Pablo de Greiff* urged the authorities to "trust their institutions and their democracy and not to postpone measures for justice, truth and reparation for the victims of human rights violations committed during the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship".
"Spain is a mature democracy and the strength of its institutions allows asserting that today the country does not face any risk of institutional breakdown. This is by itself a guarantee of non-recurrence," said the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.
Concluding his official visit to Spain, Mr de Greiff highlighted that "genuine reconciliation requires the implementation of these four measures: truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence," that represent the four pillars of his mandate.
"It is essential that the State finds ways to provide access to justice for the victims," the human rights expert said, reiterating recommendations made by other UN bodies on matters of justice, including the withdrawal of the Amnesty Law.
"In practice," the Rapporteur pointed-out, "the Amnesty Law, the prescription of the crimes, the non-retroactivity of the law, the presumption of the death of the perpetrators, are arguments used to file the cases, without investigation."
Mr de Greiff emphasized the fundamental value of the investigation for the realization of the right to truth. "The State must promote greater awareness on the obligation to protect the rights that the alleged perpetrators hold, as well as the victims' rights," he said.
In relation to truth, the Rapporteur expressed concern about the fragmentation of existing information, mainly gathered thanks to the efforts of historians, investigators and the victims and their relatives.
In that regard, he recommended the establishment of a mechanism to 'officialise' 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." The Rapporteur urged both State institutions and civil society to focus the debate on the notion of rights, beyond political considerations.
Transitional policies in Spain have focused on the element of reparation. However, one of the main demands of the victims and their relatives relates to the adoption of programmes which include categories of victims of human rights violations that are not covered by existing programmes, in addition to the annulment of the sentences pronounced by courts created during the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship.
"The impact of the conflict and the dictatorship on women is also an element that should be considered as a priority," the Rapporteur said.
During his official visit to Spain, Mr de Greiff met with a large variety of representatives of the executive branch, the legislative and the judiciary, with Ombudspersons and institutions of historic memory, as well as representatives of the civil society, including victims, relatives, organisations and academics, both at central level, and in the Autonomous Communities of Andalucía, Cataluña and Galicia.
The Rapporteur visited several memory sites, including the Valle de los Caídos, the cemetery of Paracuellos de Jarama, the so-called Canal of the Prisoners (Canal of Bajo Guadalquivir) and the remaining of the concentration camp of Los Merinales, close to Seville, and the mausoleum built on a mass grave in Cazalla de la Sierra. He also visited the mass grave of the Fossar de la Pedrera and the Montjuic Castle in Barcelona, as well as the Island of San Simón in Galicia.
The Special Rapporteur will present his final report on his visit to the Human Rights Council in September 2014.
[Source: Office of the High Commissiones for Human Rights, Madrid and Geneva, 05Feb14]
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