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Spain: The State must assume a leadership role and engage more actively to respond to the demands of the relatives of the disappeared

Spain disappeared

30 September 2013

Madrid (September 30, 2013) – “The State must assume a leadership role and engage more actively to respond to the demands of thousands of families searching for the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones who disappeared during the Civil War and the dictatorship”, said the experts of the Working Group of the United Nations on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances* at the end of their visit to Spain.

“Since the return of democracy, Spain has taken limited steps to ensure truth, justice, reparation and memory for the cases of enforced disappearances committed during the Civil War and the dictatorship,” the experts noted. “These progresses have been achieved through initiatives, many of which have been led or carried out mainly or exclusively by the relatives of the victims, or by civil society and some State institutions, mainly in certain Autonomous Communities. The State should assume its responsibility to ensure that these initiatives are part of a comprehensive, consistent and permanent State policy”.

“In all places visited during this week, the Working Group has met with hundreds of relatives. Virtually everybody has expressed deep frustration towards the administrative obstacles and difficulties they face in accessing the information needed to clarify the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. Given the passing of time and the old age of many of the witnesses and relatives it is urgent that the State respond to their claim as an immediate priority”, the experts added.

“It is regrettable the situation of impunity for cases of enforced disappearances that occurred during the Civil War and the dictatorship. There is no ongoing effective criminal investigation nor any person convicted” they added. In this regard, the experts noted that procedural rights to an investigation, to truth and to justice are central to victims’ perceptions of reparation.

Other important challenges in Spain are the limited scope of the Law of Historical Memory and the lack of budget for its implementation, the fact that the Amnesty Law remains in force, the absence of an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance, the lack of a law on access to information, the difficulties in accessing archives and the lack of a national plan for the search of disappeared persons, among others,” they said.

Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur and Mr. Ariel Dulitzky, two of the five members of the group, visited Spain from 23 to 30 September. During their visit, the Working Group visited Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Andalusia. The experts met with several authorities, relatives and different civil society actors.

The Working Group would like to thank the Government of Spain for having extended an invitation to visit the country, for its broad and positive cooperation before and during the visit as well as for the openness to dialogue. It also welcomes the information provided during the visit. The Working Group would also like to extend its gratitude to the authorities of the three Autonomous Communities it visited.

The analysis of the information received during and before the visit will be considered in preparing the report to be submitted to the Human Rights Council in 2014.


Read the full text in Spanish of the preliminary observations and recommendations of the Working Group:

The Working Group was established by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. In view of the Working Group's humanitarian mandate, clarification occurs when the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person are clearly established. The Working Group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

(*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon). The other members are Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa).

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