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Spain judge starts probe of Franco-era disappearances with exhumation order

[JURIST] Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] Thursday ordered the exhumation of 19 mass graves in Spain, launching an investigation into the disappearances of tens of thousands of people beginning in the Spanish Civil War [BBC backgrounder], and continuing through the early years of Francisco Franco's dictatorship [BBC backgrounder]. In a 68-page writ [PDF text, in Spanish], Garzon argued the mass disappearances constitute crimes against humanity. He expanded the investigation to include all members of Spain's Board of National Defense who served from July, 18, 1936, and all members of the first five governments headed by Franco until July 18, 1951. Garzon is unlikely to find any living suspects to charge, however. Franco himself died in 1975 at the age of 82. AP has more. From Madrid, El Pais has local coverage, in Spanish.

In 2007, the Spanish Parliament passed legislation [text; JURIST report] condemning the Franco government, acknowledging the victims and setting aside money to compensate them. Garzon, widely known for his high-profile investigations of terror and human rights cases, previously called for the creation of a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to uncover Franco-era abuses. In September, Garzon began an investigation [JURIST report] to assemble a definitive registry of the tens of thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime. Garzon ordered government agencies, the Spanish Episcopal Conference [church website], the University of Granada [academic website] and the mayors of four cities to produce the names of people buried in mass graves, as well as the circumstances and dates of their burial. Estimates of the number of people killed during the 1936-39 Civil War and the subsequent Franco dictatorship range from 90,000 to 180,000.

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