Court orders Franco ‘Valley of Fallen’ exhumations

The 150-metre-high cross overlooking Valley of the Fallen memorial mausoleum and Basilica. Photo: FC Georgio/ Wikimedia
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• Remains of two union members executed in 1936 must be returned to families
• First ruling on Franco victims buried alongside dictator at mausoleum complex

A Madrid court has recognized the right to a decent burial for victims of represssion by Nationalist forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the 40-year-dictatorship that followed, ordering the remains of two civilian trade union members executed by firing squad in 1936 be exhumed from a huge mausoleum built by Franco to commemorate his victory in the war.

The victims, brothers Manuel and Antonio Lapeña Altabas, were union members and supporters of the Republican side in the war who in October 1936, executed upon surrendering to local authorities in Zaragoza, their remains then summarily dumped in a common grave. In 1959, the remains were disinterred and transferred hundreds of kilometers to a mammoth memorial mausoleum and Basilica outside Madrid built with Republican prisoner-of-war labour and known as the Valle de los Caídos (“Valley of the Fallen”), where the former dictator Franco is himself buried alongside some 50,000 soldiers and civilians killed on both sides during the Civil War.

In ruling on the families’ request to recover the remains of their relatives, Judge José Manuel Delgado Seoane relied on a 2012 decree by Spain’s Supreme Court that upholds family members’ right to have the remains of Franco-era victims properly identified and returned to them for a dignified burial. The decision marks the first time any court has ordered exhumations at the infamous Valley of the Fallen.

► Read More in Spanish at El País and El Mundo …

► Read More in English at The Guardian and The Irish Times …

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