The Spanish government has begun to push through a new law on the redress of the victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship, while boosting policies on truth, justice, redress and guarantees of non-repetition.
The Council of Ministers approved the draft bill of the Democratic Memory Act, a text with 66 articles grouped under five headings and several transitional, derogatory and final provisions that seek to “uncover the truth, justice, dignify the victims, ensure forgiveness and the co-existence of the Spanish people”, according to the First Vice-President of the Government and Minister for the Presidency, Parliamentary Relations and Democratic Memory, Carmen Calvo.
Carmen Calvo explained that the draft bill “strictly” responds to the parameters for the defence and recognition of human rights, attends to the recommendations of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament – “bringing our democracy into line with that of other countries that have also had to recognise similar traumatic situations” – and complies with pronouncements in this regard from the Lower House of Parliament.
Furthermore, she continued, this follows in the wake of Act 52/2007, of 26 December, which recognises and extends rights and establishes measures in favour of those who suffered persecution or violence during the civil war and the dictatorship, which “opened the door to tackle our past, has borne extraordinary fruit and set the course for where we had to continue working”.
The text will now be sent for an opinion from the General Council of the Judiciary and the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council. Carmen Calvo expressed her hope that, following its passage through Parliament, this will become a law “backed by everyone, one that we all feel recognised by and one that recognises our country, and one where young people can understand that it falls on them to maintain the great democracy that Spain has finally become”.
Knowledge of history and redress of victims
The First Vice-President of the Government highlighted two main aims of the new text: the first is the defence and knowledge of Spain’s democratic history; the second is the recognition, redress, dignity and justice for the victims of the dictatorship and the repression.
The First Vice-President of the Government pointed out that the new law abandons the term “historical memory” and includes the 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”. 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.
As regards those Spaniards who lost their lives or were exiled, imprisoned or suffered repression during the war and the subsequent dictatorship, the law contains measures for their redress. One of these 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.
The identification of the victims buried in mass graves will be taken on by Central Government, in coordination with other public authorities, with the aim of the families that so wish being able to recover their remains. Carmen Calvo announced that the map of graves will be updated and a census will be drawn up and a DNA Bank of Victims of the Civil War and Dictatorship “that offers strict identification guarantees”.
In order to carry out these actions, four-year plans will be approved with a budgetary provision and, in addition, so that all procedures are thorough, the creation of a public prosecution service with a specific division in the Supreme Court will be set up, a Territorial Council for cooperation between Central Government and the regional governments and a Democratic Memory Council to advise the government, on which memory associations in our country and families will take part.
Carmen Calvo also underlined that the 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.
Other aspects of the law
Other content underlined by the First Vice-President of the Government includes the regulation and backing of archives as a source of data and raw material to investigate the memory; the conversion of the Valley of the Fallen, following the exhumation of the body of Francisco Franco on 24 October 2019 to a civil cemetery protected by National Heritage, 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.
Lastly, Carmen Calvo referred to the proposal to designate 31 October as the date to celebrate the commitment of Spanish society to democracy – on that day in 1978 Parliament approved the current constitutional text, subsequently ratified by referendum – and 8 May as the day to remember Spaniards in exile and their fight against fascism, firstly in Spain and then in Europe.