A Tortuous Path To
Crusading Judge's Exit From Probe Of Civil War-Era Mass Graves May Leave Truth In The Ground By Christine Spolar Chicago Tribune November 19, 2008 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-spain-graves_nunov19,0,4920312.story
PINILLA DE LA VALDERIA, Spain-Many people in this verdant countryside know their hills and valleys hide a terrible treasure from the Spanish Civil War: Skeletons of loved ones, just a few generations gone.
In recent weeks, a judicial order had given them hope that
On Tuesday, Garzon backed down, dropping his role in the case after prosecutors challenged his jurisdiction. But he called for lower-court judges to pick up where he left off, demanding that the Franco regime -during the war and for years beyond-answer to
It was not right "to grant [Franco and his supporters] impunity, forgiveness and judicial oblivion, labeling their actions as mere political repression," Garzon said in a brief that ended his personal quest.
It was the latest twist in a controversy that threatened to force
With his original 68-page judicial warrant, filed in October, Garzon had broken the silent pact that, since Franco's death in 1975, had allowed
Last year, the parliament passed a sweeping law condemning Franco's rule and offering restitution to its victims. But Garzon demanded that
He ordered 19 suspected mass graves to be opened, including one believed to hold Federico Garcia Lorca,
A panel of prosecutors on the High Court balked, asking for time to review Garzon's order and decide whether it would have legally overridden the amnesty law. On Tuesday, Garzon acceded to their challenge, but he indicated he was doing it only so that lower courts might move more quickly.
It remains unclear whether local judges will indeed take up Garzon's mission-or have any incentive to do so.
Garzon alleged that skeletons in the graves, if identified as Spaniards who opposed fascism, would be evidence that Franco and 34 aides and generals planned mass murder and committed a "crime against humanity."
Franco and his forces systematically eliminated left- wing opponents, Garzon said in a legal finding that immediately riled right-wing opposition in
Garzon's order-which claimed that 114,266 people were "disappeared" under Franco-was supplemented with data from grass-roots groups. Garzon charged that criminal killings started with the military uprising of 1936 and continued through 1951, far past the end of the actual war in 1939.
The legal initiative came last month as a small band of gravediggers searched a wooded area near
Helpers drove a backhoe into the mossy earth and appeared to end another civil war mystery. The bones of five men were lifted from the ground and a new mass grave was documented.
The recovery association has excavated 120 mass graves since 2000. Emilio Silva, a onetime journalist who has spearheaded the movement to document losses from the conflict, said the war still throws a shadow across the country's psyche. Even today, when his elderly aunt talks about the war, she whispers. Silva said he believed Garzon's effort was admirable.
"Fear stopped all the questions. The government structure changed after Franco, but the social structure-who knows whom and who relied on whom-didn't change with democracy," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs