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Spain: UN experts welcome proposal for Truth Commission


GENEVA (25 July 2018) - A group of UN human rights experts* have commended the Spanish Government for its proposal to create a Truth Commission and for its commitment to drawing up plans to search for those who disappeared during the civil war and Franco's dictatorship.

"We welcome the government's initiative and celebrate the opening of the dialogue on what happened during the decades of civil war and military dictatorship in Spain," the experts said.

"This decision represents a fundamental step towards the realization of the right to truth for all victims of serious human rights violations.”

The comments follow the announcement on 10 July 2018 by the Spanish Minister of Justice in the Congress of Deputies of a series of initiatives to revise the Historical Memory Law. Such a revision would make it possible to create a Truth Commission to investigate violations that occurred during the civil war and Franco's regime.

In the report on his visit to the country in 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence had called on the authorities to urgently address the victims' demands in terms of truth and to establish a formal mechanism for this purpose.

“We are pleased to see that the Spanish authorities decided to direct their efforts towards achieving this important goal, placing the right to truth at the top of the political agenda,” the experts said.

The projected legislative revision will also include a proposal to remove the symbols of exaltation of the dictatorship and the re-signification of the Valley of the Fallen, erected during Franco’s dictatorship and where his remains are buried.

The experts stressed the importance of the processes of construction and signification of the historical memory of past violations and emphasised that "such processes must take place within a framework of transparency and participation of civil society, focus on the victims, provide the necessary space to present their various stories, and promote critical thinking about past events”.

The experts also welcomed the establishment of a Directorate General for Historical Memory, which will be responsible, among other things, for planning the search for missing people and publicising the details of exhumations, as well as for creating and maintaining an official list of victims.

In its report on its visit to Spain in 2013, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had criticised the lack of a national plan to search for missing persons, the lack of coordination of exhumation and identification efforts, and the outdated mapping of graves. "We welcome the government's intention to assume a responsibility to actively search for missing victims and urge it to immediately adopt the necessary legislative, administrative and financial measures to effectively exercise this function," they stressed.

In its follow up report to the visit published in 2017, the Working Group had expressed concern about the inaction of the Spanish courts in prosecuting the cases of forced disappearance that occurred during the civil war and the dictatorship. “We expect that the recently announced initiatives will be accompanied by progress in the judicial sphere, including regarding any criminal procedure carried out in any country for the enforced disappearances committed in Spain,” added the experts.

The independent experts encouraged the Government to involve victims’ families and their representative associations in the implementation of the proposals.

Finally, the experts underlined their willingness to support the Spanish Government in the implementation of the initiatives, and stressed that efforts to promote truth, memory and guarantees of non-repetition are essential for the effective realisation of the human rights of victims, and to strengthen citizens' confidence in each other and in their institutions.


*The experts:  Mr. Bernard Duhaime, Chairperson-Rapporteur Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mr. Fabián Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Ms Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Spain

For further information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 / bvukovic@ohchr.org) and Ms. Maria Victoria Gabioud (+41 22 91 79945 / mgabioud@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 /  jlaurence@ohchr.org

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.