UN demands Spain identify civil war graves

“I WANT to take at least one of my father’s bones with me to my own grave,” 88-year-old Ascensión Mendieta told Newsweek.

Señora Mendieta has spent most of her life campaigning to find out where her father was buried after being executed along with 21 other men in 1939 during the Spanish Civil War. Frustrated by consecutive Spanish government’s inability to recover from their collective bouts of amnesia, with all of her options in Spain closed off, she took her campaign to Argentina, where the principle of universal jurisdiction applies. There she persuaded a judge to request that the scrubland mass grave where she believes her father, Timeteo, is buried, be excavated.

Next month a report by the United Nations investigative team will land with a thump on Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s desk demanding that his government take action before the end of 2015 ensuring that the relatives of the disappeared receive state assistance in locating the remains of their relatives. November 20, 2015 sees the 40th anniversary of Francisco Franco’s death. His reign of repression, characterised by concentration camps, forced labour and executions against those he was politically and ideologically opposed to lead to an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. More than 100,000 of those victims lie in 2,400 unmarked graves.

The UN report states that Spain’s steps towards exposing the truth have been: “important but timid” and calls for a “state body… with sufficient human, technical and financial resources to oversee all matters relating to enforced disappearances, including the establishment and organisation of a central database.” The report authors note that only three regions -Andalucia, the Basque Country and Catalonia- have provided organised assistance to families trying to locate missing relatives.

Following the UN report, at long last it looks as if the relatives of the Civil War will have their demands for dignified closure satisfied.

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