MADRID, Apr 22 (IPS) - Argentina is an example for Spaniards to bear in mind as they investigate crimes committed during the 1939-1975 dictatorship of general Francisco Franco, says Emilio Silva, head of the Spanish Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory (ARMH).
Silva took part in the
Almeida, who said that her father, grandfather, uncles, brothers and some of her sons were in the armed forces, explained that her son Alejandro Martín, a leftwing activist, was seized at his home by the security forces in 1975 at the age of 20 and never seen again.
Forced disappearances of this kind had already begun to occur even before the start of
At that time, the widow of former president Juan Domingo Perón, María Estela Martínez - known to the world as Isabel Perón - was president. She was ousted by the 1976 coup d'état and held under house arrest for five years by the dictatorship. She has lived in
The book, presented Tuesday night in the Spanish capital, contains poems and writings by Alejandro Martín. It was published in
"We must carry on fighting for the truth, and for the right to bury our dead," Almeida said, with tears in her eyes. In recent years, she added, forensic anthropologists have recovered some remains, and "those bones speak and can lead to knowledge of where and by whom they were killed."
She refuses to say that her son is dead. "He is detained-disappeared," she says, because to consider him dead she would have to see his body.
She stressed that the watchword of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, which commemorates its 33rd anniversary on Apr. 30, is "¡con vida los llevaron, con vida los queremos!" (they were taken alive, we want them back alive!), and that the mothers will only accept that their children are dead when the perpetrators admit to having killed them.
According to official figures, more than 10,000 people were forcibly disappeared in
In 1996, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón opened prosecutions that led in some cases to trials for crimes perpetrated during the Argentine dictatorship and the 1973-1990 military dictatorship in
Garzón acted under international law, which states that no statute of limitations applies to crimes against humanity and that they cannot be amnestied, and under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which stipulates that when they are not tried in the country where they were committed, they can be prosecuted in any country.
Argentine lawyer Carlos Slepoy, who lives and practices in Madrid, said that in response to Garzón's actions, "the favour should be returned" by investigating, outside of Spain, the crimes of the Franco era.
Almeida stated clearly, to loud applause from those at the book launch, that not only should members of the armed forces be investigated and prosecuted, but also politicians, members of the business community and the Catholic Church hierarchy, some of whom were active accomplices of the dictatorship.
She added, though, that "priests who followed Christ's teachings, and kept one eye on God and the other on the people, should be remembered and honoured," referring to clergy who were persecuted by the dictatorship in Argentina for defending human rights. The Argentine activist told IPS that recent declarations by Pope Benedict XVI about clergy who supported the Argentine dictatorship were "inconceivable, coming from someone who claims to defend human rights."
The pontiff "only said that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio," accused of complicity with the abduction and torture of two priests during the military regime, "was a lost sheep, and no penalty has been imposed on him by the Church," Almeida said.
On Apr. 14, Slepoy and human rights groups filed genocide charges in a federal court in
The two men were among the victims of pro-Franco forces during the 1936-1939 Spanish civil war.
Among other legal instruments, Slepoy appealed to the United Nations Convention against Torture, approved in 1984 and in force since 1987, which has been ratified by
The Convention establishes that, when there is reliable information about cases of torture occurring in one of the states party, the accused persons can be tried in court in a different state party.
ARMH's Silva harshly criticised the Supreme Court's Apr. 7 announcement that it would try Garzón on charges of overreaching his powers by attempting to investigate atrocities committed under Franco, which were amnestied in 1977.
Noting that socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had said that Franco "has already been judged by history," Silva asked: "What would people in
At the conclusion of the book launch, Spanish actress Lucía Álvarez read the last poem Alejandro wrote, translated roughly as: "Until forever, my love / until forever, my comrades / winter brings fierce cold / and the barricades are waiting / the military are waiting too / until the final victory / in life or in death."
The entire audience rose to their feet and shouted, over and over again, "Presente! Presente!" meaning Alejandro was present in their midst.
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo - Founding Line split off from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association because of dissent over the latter group's increasing politicisation. (END/2010)
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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