The “Comissió de la Dignitat” (Dignity Commission) has expressed its satisfaction with the effective annulment of the trials held in Catalonia under Franco and now calls for the Spanish State to declare illegal the justice imparted under the Franco dictatorship
A 15-year battle
The Dignity Commission was founded in 2002 in order to recover the so-called “Salamanca Papers”, the documents confiscated by the dictatorship from private individuals, institutions and administrations and which have never been returned in their entirety. Here is an interview with the President of the Commission, Josep Cruanyes (pictured).
EL PUNT GERARD ARTIGAS – BARCELONA
The call for the annulment of the Franco trials goes back as far as the end of the Franco dictatorship.
Last June 29, the Catalan Parliament declared null and void the trials conducted in Catalonia by the Franco regime on passing the law to rehabilitate the victims of the dictatorship, which declares illegal the court-martials and their sentences.
It’s taken 42 years from the death of Dictator Franco to annul these trials. Is that late?
Yes, it is. Because this kaw, this annulment of the trials, is not symbolic. It is the redress for the people who were victims and for their families and many of these people and family members of those who were shot or imprisoned and victims of repression have not lived to see it. It’a been a long process and because the request for the annulment of the trials was made at the end of the dictatorship and, lthough it had been requested before all the possible instances, it had never been done. Spanish State legislation on historic memory did not want to broach the issue, not because it was an oversight, but because the parties decided to exclude this possibility. The State had this obligation and they simply didn’t comply.
A similar initiative has been brought to the Spanish Parliament in order to promote a restitution on the State level. What do you believe are the prospects for that?
It would be a substantial change in Spanish politics if it gives rise to a censure of the Franco regime and Franco’s justice system, which has not taken place up until now. In any case, the proposal brought to the Spanish Parliament is surprising, as, unlike the Catalan law, it does not explicitly proclaim Franco’s tribunals as illegal; it stops at what the Historic Memory Law’s merely symbolic condemnation. The Catalan Law speaks of illegality and annuls the proceedings. This next task is a sort of acid test for Spanish democracy: if the State is unable to sever its ties with the Franco regime, it means it still has one foot in the past which it is unable to shake off, and that means lack of quality of the democracy.
Is issuing certificates of annulment of the trials a mere gesture toward the victims?
It is not a gesture; it is the necessary step precisely because of all the time that has elapsed has made it more important than ever to publish the names of each and every person whose trial has been annulled. PP, PSC and C’s parties voted in favor of the bill because they saw it included the names of these 66.000 people and this entails public restitution. In the same way as they were treated as criminals back then, now their names will be remembered everywhere, publicly, and many of them might not be remembered otherwise, as none of their family members are alive today. It is also important to issue certificates to those families who request it so that they have individual annulment documents. This government has made a substantial shift by moving from the symbolic to restitution with regard to historic memory.
Some cities like Lleida or Tortosa maintain remains of the Franco era in their public areas. Is it a case of collusion?
It’s due to fear. I met a journalist who has realised that his grandfather had not died at war, as they always maintained, but was executed. How can a family hide that they had murdered the grandfather? Can it be hidden? From fear. Because of the repression, because it was frowned upon by others, they kept it from the children and the grandchildren so that they didn’t mention it. This fear then becomes guilt and the whole thing ends up with people thinking that the Franco regime was not that bad after all. What the Franco regime represented must not be trivialized and by law, street names of mayors who held office while people were being executed and thousands held in prisons and concentration camps may not be maintained. When we name a street after someone, it is a celebration of that person as an example. In the case of the Ebre monument (commemorative of the Battle of the Ebro river, won by the fascists), it is exactly the same: it cannot be allowed to remain and the law says that all Franco regime symbols must be withdrawn. There is no doubt of the meaning behind that monument and why it was erected. Saying it was dedicated to all the soldiers who fought at the battle is a lie.