Friday, 28 April 2017

UN critical about Spain’s inactivity on historical memory, sees progress in Catalonia


Barcelona (ACN).- The upcoming report from the UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reaffirms the lack of progress in Spain when it comes to historical memory, justice, search and identification of Spanish Civil war and Francoist dictatorship victims. The text, which is to be approved at the next group meeting between May 8 and May 17 in Geneva and officially published in September, confirms that a vast majority of the United Nations’ demands presented to Spain in 2013 “are still pending”. “Regretfully, there have not been any changes,” said the head of the mission to Spain, Ariel Dulitzky, in an interview with CNA. Indeed, the only improvements the UN experts have observed are at the regional level. “In Catalonia we have already seen some advancements, which have continued after our visit. When taking into account the Spanish government’s inactivity, the initiatives at an autonomic level are even more relevant,” underlined Dulitzky in the interview with the Catalan News Agency. Over the last several months, the Generalitat has launched a program of identification and opening of mass graves, and another program on genetic identification of the remains,  aimed at helping families find their loved ones. 

UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances member, Dulitzky, remembers that during his visit to Spain in 2013 he already saw that the Spanish government “in some way had privatized the matter, leaving the initiative of all actions to historical memory associations” or delegating the tasks to the Autonomous Communities “without offering them any kind of funding or political management”, even though a “central responsibility” from the Spanish government would be necessary here. 

Ariel Dulitzky emphasized that they then notified Spain “specifically” that it was “urgent to take action immediately”, “taking into account the period of the disappearances, the possible testimonies, family members and possible people responsible”. But the 2017 follow-up report will confirm that these actions have not been taken. “There is no specific budget for implementing the historical memory law, there have been no advancements in the trials, or sanctions of the Franco regime disappearances. And the Spanish government has not presented a national search and exhumation plan,” said this expert. “The main issues, particularly those regarding Francoist dictatorship victims, are still pending to be implemented,” adds Dulitzky, who has always been the Spanish affairs’ spokesperson in this UN group.  

According to Dulitzky, the UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances understands that the launching of the recommendations is a “dynamic process”, but in the case of Spain “the passing of time cannot be used as an excuse for not searching or making justice”. In this way, he warned that abandoning memory politics creates “additional responsibilities” and “new emphases and strategies are needed to make up for the deficiencies the state’s inaction during decades”. 

The role of the international community

Dulitzky also lamented that “Spanish victims are still seeking justice” outside Spain and after starting the complaint in Argentina, they have also had to present one in Mexico. “We think when there are massive numbers of violent events of such a magnitude, as the ones in Spain during the Civil War, it is the whole international community’s responsibility,” said the expert, who ends his mandate at the UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances this month. When we asked him how the European Union should react toward Spain’s attitude on historical memory issues, Dulitzky said that it is “all the international institutions’ responsibility to support all the ongoing processes, to go in depth with them and to promote them in case they are inexistent”.  

Dulitzky stressed that even though the UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances only presents recommendations, “it does not mean that they are valueless”. Actually, he warned that the recommendations are based on “international treaties mandatory for Spain”, which Spain “freely ratified” and which should be fulfilled. According to him, in 2013 it became clear that “Spain failed to protect family members’ rights when it comes to truth, reparation and memory”, a scenario expected to continue unchanged in the 2017 report. “There is still an outstanding debt from the Spanish state,” he concluded. 

The reports

The UN Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited Spain from September 23 to September 30, 2013 to evaluate the historical memory issue and in 2014 they published a report, which warned about the many deficiencies in this area. In the text, the UN group lamented “Spain’s obstacles and shortcomings in the access and explanation of the truth” and in localizing “the disappeared people”, and they demanded specific improvements and legislative changes to compensate the victims and their families. Moreover, the report noted that there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. This 2017, the UN group will publish their follow-up report on these recommendations, which will be discussed in May in Geneva and it is to be presented, officially, in September. 

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  • The Foreign Affairs Minister of Catalonia, Raül Romeva, during an event for the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (by Marta Lluvich)