It has cost, but there is already an almost definitive Democratic Memory Law and it is at the gates of final approval. The Constitutional Commission of Congress has given the green light this Monday to the opinion two years after the Government began the process. The process has taken longer than expected and, at times, was expected to be frustrated in a scenario marked by discrepancies with the rest of the groups, but finally, the amendments agreed between the government parties and some partners of the investiture such as PNV, EH Bildu, Más País or PDeCAT have managed to get the text off the ground with the abstention of ERC and JxCat and the vote against Vox, PP and Ciudadanos.
The Government saves the Democratic Memory Law in Congress thanks to an agreement with EH Bildu
The next step is the debate in the plenary session of Congress, where it is planned to vote next week. The norm replaces the Historical Memory Law approved by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2007 and inaugurates a new roadmap for public policies on the subject. Among its main innovations, the assumption by the State of the search and exhumation of the disappeared, the creation of a DNA Bank and a census of victims, the withdrawal of 33 noble titles granted by Franco or the creation of a Prosecutor of Human Rights and Democratic Memory Chamber to promote investigations.
The law finally has the support of several of the usual partners of the Executive, from whom they have managed to extract some commitments. Among them, that the Basque, Catalan and Galician culture and language be considered victims of Francoism, the recognition of the Fort of San Cristóbal (Navarra) as a place of memory or the declaration of the courts, bodies and sentences issued during the dictatorship as “ illegal”, something that has been incorporated through amendments. The project presented by the Government was limited to proclaiming them “null” and “illegitimate”.
Even so, the vast majority of the groups that have supported the opinion are committed to continuing to negotiate and, although they have accepted that the novelties introduced via amendments improve the norm, they still see room to incorporate demands and continue to be critical of some of its points. “We have been there, but not at any price”, has illustrated Bel Pozueta, from Bildu, for which the norm “continues to suffer of a critical view of what the Transition period and subsequent years entailed”. In this sense, the negotiations have already borne fruit in the creation of a commission that will evaluate the violations of human rights until 1983, although the definition of a victim of Francoism is limited until the promulgation of the Constitution in 1978.
The obstacle of the Amnesty Law
Finally, the rule will not repeal the Amnesty Law, one of the red lines that ERC claims to vote in favor of the text. The Catalan group has valued “the advances” that have occurred after the negotiations, but it is still “far from being a truly reparative text because it does not touch” the norm approved in 1977 and that, in practice, is posing an obstacle to judge the crimes of Francoism. “In Spain, the wound will be closed the day the victims do not have to go to foreign courts to file a complaint,” said the deputy Carolina Telechea i Lozano in reference to the Argentine Complaint, the only open case in the world that investigates violations of rights of the dictatorship.
In this sense, the point at which the law has reached is the incorporation of an amendment by United We Can and the PSOE with which it tried to satisfy the most critical groups according to which the Amnesty Law should be interpreted based on international law, by which war crimes and crimes against humanity cannot be amnestiable. It remains to be seen if this precept allows Francoist crimes to be tried or if the courts continue to hide behind a restrictive interpretation, something that experts and memorial associations fear. If so, Bildu has advanced that he will present “legislative measures” with the aim of forcing the judges “to persecute those responsible for Franco’s terror.”
The “return of stolen goods” by the Franco regime is another of the absences identified by ERC, which also calls for financial compensation for the victims of the Franco regime. For now, the text has already incorporated the creation of a commission that will study the scope of the compensation granted so far within a year. JxCat, for its part, demands the return of the Vía Laietana police station, epicenter in Barcelona of Francoist torture and currently owned by the Ministry of the Interior, to the Catalan institutions and the recognition of the “Catalan nation” as a victim of the dictatorship.
For their part, United We Can and the PSOE have celebrated that the norm is now on its way to final approval and have thanked the rest of the groups for “good negotiating will and predisposition,” said parliamentarian Indalecio Gutiérrez. The deputy has focused on the measures that the text implements, which he has equated with the “scar of a wound that bled for more than 40 years” and has demanded the PP and Ciudadanos their vote in favor. “We are not here for times of confrontation, but for harmony and the culture of peace”, he added.
The strong opposition of the right
The agreement to create a commission to study the violations of human rights committed until 1983 has been the novelty against which the right has charged most forcefully, which has voted no to the text. “They intend to extend Francoism until the time of Felipe González”, the PP deputy Jaime Miguel Mateu has come to say. The popular ones have described the law as “an attempt to fracture coexistence among Spaniards” and, although they have recognized the need to “recover the corpses” of the victims, they have regretted that it does not make reference to the murders perpetrated by ETA.
The terrorist group has also been used by Vox and Ciudadanos to justify their opposition. The extreme right has come to affirm that the bloodiest years of ETA “will become understandable as democratic resistance to a late Francoist government”, in the words of deputy Francisco José Contreras, who has assured that with the norm, the PSOE “makes its own the historical vision of Bildu, Podemos and the extreme left”. A similar position has been expressed by Guillermo Díaz, from Ciudadanos, who has described the law as “Bildu’s cosmetic surgery maneuver” and has accused the Government of making “selective memory” by “ignoring the entire past of the terrorist group ETA”.