Spain rules Franco regime “illegal” in new memory law

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved a new historical memory law that declares illegal the regime of former dictator Gen. Francisco Franco and makes the central government responsible for the recovery of the bodies of tens of thousands of people missing from the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship.

Outlawing the nearly 40-year Franco regime that emerged after the end of the civil war in 1939, the new law nullifies the legality of the dictatorship’s courts and their rulings.

It also bans the Francisco Franco Foundation, a private institution dedicated to preserving the autocrat’s legacy, and all glorification of the former dictator.

The government is to draw up maps of where the bodies of an estimated 100,000 people still missing may be located. It will also set up a DNA bank to help with the identification processes.

The missing are those who opposed or were considered to oppose Franco and were subsequently killed and buried in unmarked graves.

“We will pour our resources into disinterring the remains of those assassinated and who today are still in ditches,” Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament before the vote

The law aims to improve on a 2007 Law for Historical Memory that experts and activists agreed fell far short of emptying the hundreds of still-untouched mass graves and addressing many other issues.

The new bill creates a State Prosecutors’ Office for Human Rights and Democratic Memory that guarantees the right to investigate the human rights violations during the war and dictatorship.

The bill faced massive hurdles in parliament and the leftist coalition government needed the backing of smaller, regional parties to get it through.

The bill recognizes as victims of persecution the native languages and cultures of the Basque, Catalan and Galician regions.

Just like its predecessor in 2007, the bill failed to achieve a consensus. Some felt it went too far, while others — including the leading grassroots group that helps families organize the recovery of bodies from mass graves, the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory — claimed it was insufficient.

Spain´s three main right-wing parties voted against it, with the leading opposition conservative Popular Party vowing to scrap it if the party is returned to office in elections scheduled for next year.

The bill will become law once it is approved by the Senate next week.

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