Spaniards seek justice in Argentina for Franco-era crimes

Thu Sep 26, 2013 1:39pm EDT
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By Sonya Dowsett and Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) - Hundreds of Spaniards have turned to an Argentine court to seek justice for crimes committed during the 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco in a case that threatens to dredge up Spain's uncomfortable past.

Argentina is turning the tables on Spain by using an international human rights law that Spain itself used in 2005 to prosecute a member of Argentina's former military dictatorship in Spanish courts for crimes against humanity.

Lawyers are compiling testimonies to add to Argentine Judge Maria Servini's investigation into possible crimes against humanity one year after Spain's Supreme Court upheld an amnesty for Franco-era officials.

Spain, in common with many Latin American countries in their transition to democracy, passed an amnesty law in 1977 which pardoned the crimes of the Franco government. Lawyers are seeking to override this legislation under international law.

"We're putting forward many cases including torture, shootings, forced disappearances and stolen babies," Carlos Slepoy, an Argentine lawyer based in Madrid, told Reuters.

About 250 people had joined the lawsuit with many more waiting to give testimonials.

"People have always wanted an investigation to be carried out here, but that has proved impossible and they have turned to Argentine justice as an alternative."

Unlike countries such as Chile or South Africa that formed truth commissions to come to terms with human rights violations in their past, Spain's right and left parties agreed to draw a curtain on history after the death of Franco in 1975 in a 'Pact of Forgetting' which was given a legal basis in the amnesty law.   Continued...

A man works at one of the entrances to the mass grave in civil zone of the cemetery San Salvador in Oviedo, northern Spain, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso