A less contentious amnesty in 1977

A less contentious amnesty in 1977

PRO-AMNESTY PROTEST: Policia Armada surround protesters in San Senastian in 1977 Photo credit: CC/Mikel Gaska

WHILE amnesty currently dominates Spain’s news, discussions and protests who still remembers the amnesty of October 1977?

Franco had died two years earlier and the Amnesty Law protecting perpetrators of war crimes from  both sides was passed on October 15.

Exonerating both Republicans and Nationalists of atrocities that they committed during the 1936-1939 Civil War, it was the first law to be passed by the democratically-elected parliament which emerged from the June 1977 general election.

Initially, the governing Union de Centro Democratico (UCD) headed by Adolfo Suarez did not back the initiative proposed by the opposition parties, maintaining that amnesties already granted to political prisoners in July 1976 and March 1977 were sufficient.

The opposition parties felt these did not go far enough and Suarez eventually gave them the go-ahead to outline a draft law.

Alianza Popular (AP), which evolved into the Partido Popular, and whose president Manuel Fraga Iribarne had been Franco’s Information and Tourism minister and ambassador to Britain, refused to take part.

The law’s text was written by Pilar Brabo and Marcelino Camacho, from the Spanish Communist Party (PCE), Xabier Arzallus and Mitxel Unzueta from the Minoria Vasco-Catalan group (MVC), Placido Fernandez Viagas and Pablo Castellano (PSOE). Donato Fuejo represented the Grupo Mixto, the group formed by MPs from parties with fewer than 15 seats.

Practically all of the parties represented in parliament, including UCD, voted in favour of the Amnesty Law on October 15, 1977.  Alianza Popular’s 18 MPs abstained while Euskadiko Ezkerra and Candidatura Aragonesa Independiente de Centro, with one seat apiece, voted against it, while one vote was void.

The new law guaranteeing immunity for both Nationalists and Republicans now protected both from prosecution. In practice, it favoured the Nationalists whose reprisals against Republicans had continued during the immediate post-war years.

But the new law was vital to laying the foundations for the Transition politicians’ success in agreeing not to allow the past to hinder the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

“The amnesty is the start of the beginning of democracy,” the Basque nationalist Xabier Arzallus said after the law was voted through.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.