Although Spain’s Amnesty Law of 1977 seems to be a protective blanket of General Franco’s surviving supporters of his regime, it only provides for an amnesty for political crimes – and the crimes under international law committed in Spain in the past do not amount to political crimes. The Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzón did comply with the obligations of Spain under international law when he decided to investigate and prosecute the former Chilean head of state, Augusto Pinochet in October 1998.
The investigation initiated by Judge Garzón on the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Civil War by both parties to the conflict and the Franco regime is righteous because this is an attempt to correct a historical blunder. There are no wounds to open as opposed to some claims because the wounds of the families of the victims of human rights violations and enforced disappearances are still open and are in fact, festering- even after 41 years since the death of Francisco Franco. Two years after his death, the Government of Spain passed the Amnesty Law – though it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights few months before that.
Closure is remote because the remnants of those responsible are still alive and conscientiously hide the atrocities committed during those dark years. A country like Spain which claims to practice democracy, truth and justice must support the exercises of trial and prosecuting human rights violators, including perpetrators of enforced disappearance.
The International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED), composed of 40 member- organizations from Africa, Asia, Euro-Mediterranean Region, Europe, Latin and North America believes that Spain as in any other government must be responsible to promote a safety net to their citizens against all forms of human rights violations. Part of this measure is the consistent determination of the state to support the legal process against all atrocities.
To note, enforced disappearance is highly controversial in Spain because until now, the Government did not recognize the state-sponsored kidnapping of the babies of the activists and dissidents during the Franco regime. This is true despite the fact that Spain has ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – but it has not yet criminalized enforced disappearance under national law.
Even if our coalition celebrates the recent court decision which acquitted the judge, this is still inadequate. Supporting the revocation of the disbarment of Judge Garzón will totally vindicate him. Moreover, this will also give a strong signal to the international community that the Government of Spain is sincere in its effort to protect human rights and promote justice. ICAED is one with the civil society and the international community in unceasingly monitoring the progress of the case of Judge Garzón. Under our watch we also vow to support the effort of the families of the disappeared in Spain for truth, justice, memory and non-recurrence.
MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances
Commonwealth Ave., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
The International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED) gathers organisations of families of disappeared and NGO’s that work in a non-violent manner against the practice of enforced disappearances at the local, national and international level. The principal objective of ICAED is an early ratification and effective implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.