Thursday, December 1

First complaint for torture against Francoist police officers after the approval of the Memory Law

It was known as ‘the house of horrors’. The police station on Via Laietana in Barcelona was a detention and torture center for the Franco dictatorship against communists, Catalanists and workers. For the first time after the approval of the Democratic Memory Law, one of the reprisals has gone to court with a complaint against six of the police officers who tortured him.

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The legal action seeks not only a response from the courts to Franco’s repression, until now denied under the pretext of the 1977 Amnesty Law, but it is the first step in a campaign by various entities to ensure that the Via Laietana police station (which to this day continues to house the Headquarters of the National Police Corps in Barcelona) is a space for the memory of Franco’s repression. Until now the PSOE and the PP have vetoed it.

The complainant is Carlos Vallejo, a PSUC militant who was arrested and tortured twice in 1970 and 1971 for his political and union activity. At least during the first detention, which lasted 21 days, Vallejo “was subjected to torture at the hands of the defendants and other agents yet to be identified,” says the complaint drafted by the lawyers for the Irídia center, Laura Medina and Sònia Olivella.

The legal action is a priori with two obstacles. The first is the passage of time (Vallejo has asked the court to verify whether the accused police officers have died), and the second is the Amnesty Law, which has already vetoed investigations against those responsible for Franco’s repression in the past, such as the judge who sentenced Salvador Puig Antich to death.

Vallejo’s defense alleges that international law requires “investigating, prosecuting and penalizing” international crimes, mistreatment and torture. But the complainants also point out that the recent Democratic Memory Law establishes the obligation of the State to guarantee “the right to investigate violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law that occurred during the War and the Dictatorship.”

Altogether, there are six pro-Franco police officers sued: Vicente Juan Creix, Genuino Nicolás (now deceased), Rafael Núñez, Francisco Javier Torres, José Antonio González and Francisco Manuel Escobedo. The first had the category of chief commissioner, the second of commissioner and the rest with the category of Inspectors, attached to the Political-Social Brigade.

The complaint relates that Vallejo was gradually controlled by the police as he assumed union responsibilities at SEAT, when his first arrest would be precipitated. He was arrested for the first time on December 17, 1970, when he was leaving home.

During the interrogations, which lasted several days, Vallejo was subjected to different physical and psychological torture techniques to extract information about the activities of workers at SEAT, the PSUC and CCOO. There was physical torture: he was beaten and kicked in various parts of his body; they tied him to a chair by the knees, keeping him squatting for hours; they subjected him to the so-called “wheels”, in which Vallejo was placed in the center of some five or six police officers placed in a circle and who attacked him in turns; and he was subjected to suffocation using the “bag” method.

In addition to physical torture, psychological torture must be added, through temporary disorientation techniques and death threats. During one of the interrogations they made him believe that they were pointing a gun at his head, which was actually a stapler. They also humiliated him by calling him “shitty red, what did you think?” And telling him that “what he was doing was nonsense, that it wasn’t worth it.”

“Torture was a constant tool to humiliate everyone who dared to fight the dictatorship,” Vallejo said in the presentation of the complaint and the campaign that various entities will promote to achieve that once and for all that the police station Via Laietana is a memory space.

These are the Amical Mathausen, the Catalan Association of Political Expressions of the Franquisme, the Ateneu Popular Memory, the Comissió de la Dignitat, the Comissió de la Memòria Històrica, EUROM (European Observatory on Memories), Fundació Cipriano Garcia–CCOO, Irídia, the Table of Catalonia d’Entitats Memorialistes and Òmnium Cultural.

The entities want to overcome the reluctance that up to now both the PSOE and the PP have had in turning Vía Laietana into a memorial of Franco’s repression. “Via Laietana 43 exemplifies the darkness of the Franco dictatorship as a true center of horror in the heart of the city of Barcelona”, has expressed the president of Òmnium, Xavier Antich.

For her part, the lawyer Pilar Rebaque, also retaliated against during the dictatorship, has made it clear that it is a claim and a demand made by “the whole of society.” “Memory centers are necessary to have a good democratic health so that what happened does not happen again, she has indicated.

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