Wednesday, July 6

A commission of forensic experts will advise the exhumations of the Valley of the Fallen

The Council of Ministers has agreed this Tuesday, June 22, to create a working Commission to advise the State Secretariat for Democratic Memory on the forensic intervention that is going to be carried out soon in the crypts of the Valley of the Fallen. The objective is to exhume 62 mortal remains, which are the permits that National Heritage has granted until now to the families who have requested it. Publication in the BOE is pending.

This is the largest mass grave in Spain: more than 33,000 human remains in eight chapels in the Valley of the Fallen

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The constitution of this Commission was included in the Royal Decree for the granting of the grant of 665,000 euros to the Foundation of the Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos, dependent on the National Heritage, to carry out the necessary actions to enter the crypts, dignify the ossuaries and exhume and identify the remains claimed by the relatives.

The coordination of all these actions is in the hands of the State Secretariat for Democratic Memory, which will be advised by these experts, appointed by the Forensic Medical Council of the Ministry of Justice. Sources from the Secretary of State indicate that the names are being requested from the corresponding agencies and that they will be known early next week.

Given that the City Council of San Lorenzo de El Escorial has approved this Thursday the necessary building license to intervene in the Basilica, it is expected that the work on the settlement of structures, prior to the opening of crypts and columbariums, will begin in the coming days . The relatives of the victims, who have been waiting for this moment for years, are expectant and some of them have already expressed to the Secretary of State their desire to be present at some point in the process of opening crypts.

Order of action in the crypts

The Scientific-Technical Committee of this Council under the Ministry of Justice, chaired by Rafael Bañón González (director of the Murcia Institute of Legal Medicine), has been in charge of making the preliminary reports on the state of the crypts and the action proposal . Bañón, José Luis Prieto, Cristina Santaolalla and Marta Grijalba Mazo, were the experts who evaluated in situ the state of the crypts in September 2018. The Committee carried out this investigation at the request of the National Heritage, after the order of a court in San Lorenzo de El Escorial to proceed with the exhumation of the Lapeña brothers. In that visual inspection as well as with a device called a videoscope, they were able to determine what the columbariums are like, the fact that some boxes have inscriptions that allow their identification, such as their place of origin or the registration numbers, and that the state of conservation of some boxes was good, while others had burst.

According to the agreements made in the National Heritage, it has been decided to first enter the Crypt of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, which is the one on the right side of the altar, where there are two of the pairs of brothers who want to be exhumed: the Lapeña , the Cansado Lamata and one of the Canales brothers, Valerico. Later, you will enter the Crypt of the Capilla del Santísimo, on the opposite side; in it are the remains of Ángel Fernández Moya, among others. Finally, the crypts of the side chapels of the Basilica will be opened; in one of them, that of the Virgen del Pilar, is the columbarium of Juan Colom Solé and in that of the Virgin of Africa, that of Valerico Canales’s brother, Fidel Victorino. To give some examples from among the best known cases of approved exhumations.

Memory in a drawer

This will be the second commission of experts created to advise the Government of Spain on the Valley of the Fallen. The first was met by Ramón Jáuregui as Minister of the Presidency in 2011, during the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. It was also agreed in a Council of Ministers and was called “for the Future of the Valley.” It was chaired by Virgilio Zapatero (Professor of Philosophy of Law) and Pedro González-Trevijano (Professor of Constitutional Law), accompanied by Carme Molinero (Professor of Contemporary History), Miguel Herrero (member of the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences), Alicia Alted (Professor of Contemporary History), Manuel Reyes Mate (researcher at the CISC Institute of Philosophy), Amelia Valcárcel (Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy), Hilari Raguer (historian and monk of the Benedictine community of Montserrat), Feliciano Barrios (Professor of Law History), Ricard Vinyes (Professor of Contemporary History) and Francisco Ferrándiz (CSIC social anthropologist).

That commission, whose report was left in a drawer when, shortly after, Mariano Rajoy won the presidency of the Government, contained 34 recommendations. One of them (the 31st) was the transfer of Franco’s remains to another burial place as well as the reinhumation of those of José Antonio Primo de Rivera in a not pre-eminent place. After the exhumation of Francisco Franco in October 2019, action is still needed on the burial of the founder of the Falange.

The actions that are about to take place in the Valley correspond to two of them (numbers 29 and 30), which recommended attention to the claims of relatives and the dignity of the cemetery.