The Spanish cabinet has approved a draft bill of the ‘Democratic Memory Act’ to ‘comprehensively redress the victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship’, whilst also seeking to ‘boost policies on truth, justice, redress and guarantees of non-repetition’.
The Democratic Memory Act contains 66 articles grouped under five headings, and according to Spain’s deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo, it aims to ‘uncover the truth, justice, dignify the victims, ensure forgiveness and the co-existence of the Spanish people’.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Calvo explained that the draft bill ‘strictly’ responds to the parameters for the defence and recognition of human rights, and attends to the recommendations of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament by ‘bringing our democracy into line with that of other countries that have also had to recognise similar traumatic situations’.
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The Democratic Memory Act, which will see the annulment of convictions for ideological reasons during the Franco regime, will have to go before the Spanish Congress and Senate.
It goes further than a similar law passed in 2007, which described such sentences as ‘illegitimate’ while stopping short of annulling them.
Calvo explained that the new law abandons the previous term of ‘historical memory’ and includes the new term ‘democratic memory’ to recognise ‘the milestones in the fight of the Spanish people for their rights and liberties, which began more than 200 years ago’.
‘We must rediscover this shining history of our country, which should be in the collective awareness of our people, in our classrooms, so that we are all aware, are informed and can be conscious and responsible for upholding democracy,’ said the deputy prime minister.
The new law includes measures of an educational nature to be included in the curricula for compulsory and advanced secondary education, and also to train teachers.
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Executions, imprisonments, exile, repression
The new Democratic Memory Act seeks to redress those who lost their lives or were executed, imprisoned, exiled or suffered repression during the Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship.
One measure will be the ‘declaration of the full nullity of those trials and rulings that, without any type of procedural guarantees and outside of the legality of the rule of law, resulted in convictions and executions’.
Former Catalan president Lluís Companys, executed in 1940, is among those whose convictions will be annulled.
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The Catalan Parliament symbolically nullified the Francoist sentences in 2017, including that of Lluís Companys and those affecting 64,000 more Catalans.
Exhumation of victims in mass graves
The exhumation and identification of the victims buried in mass graves will be taken on by Spain’s central government, in co-ordination with other public authorities, ‘with the aim of the families that so wish being able to recover their remains’. Financial help will also be granted towards the recovery of victims’ remains.
Calvo announced that the map of graves will be updated and that a census will be drawn up. She also said that there would be a DNA Bank of Victims of the Civil War and Dictatorship to offer ‘strict identification guarantees’.
Calvo admitted that the government did not know how many unidentified victims there are, but said they will ‘mobilise the necessary public resources to identify and be able to bury them with the peace they deserve’.
It is estimated that around 25,000 bodies could be recovered from mass graves during the next 4-5 years.
Calvo also underlined that the new law emphasises the need to recover the memory of the victims that suffered reprisals that were ‘particularly indignant’ simply because of ‘their sex, sexual orientation or ethnicity: women, the LGTBI community and the Gypsy people’.
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Valley of the Fallen
Another measure in the new act will be the conversion of the Valley of the Fallen, following the exhumation of the body of Franco on 24 October 2019 to become a civil cemetery and the change of name of the ‘Pantheon of illustrious men’ to the ‘Spanish Pantheon’, to include ‘men and women who have been noteworthy due to their contributions to the country’.
The legislation will also ban organisations that praise dictators from receiving public funds, which could apply to the Francisco Franco Foundation.
The foundation was set up a year after the dictator’s death in 1975 to promote a positive interpretation of his legacy. Franco’s daughter, and his only child, Carmen Franco, headed the organisation until her death in 2017.
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The text of the new act also proposes eligibility for Spanish citizenship to the descendants of members of the International Brigades, who fought on the republican side in the Civil War.
On Tuesday, the leader of Podemos and the second deputy prime minister, Pablo Iglesias, tweeted: ‘The descendants of the members of the International Brigades who fought for freedom and against fascism in Spain will be eligible for Spanish nationality. It was time for this government to say to these heroes and heroines of democracy: thank you for coming.’
Los descendientes de los brigadistas internacionales que combatieron por la libertad y contra el fascismo en España, podrán acceder a la nacionalidad española. Ya era hora de decir desde el Gobierno a estos héroes y heroínas de la democracia: gracias por venir ✊ pic.twitter.com/t8Xy5TgqvQ
— Pablo Iglesias 🔻 (@PabloIglesias) September 15, 2020
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