Family files suit at UN over Valley of Fallen remains

The 150-metre-high cross overlooking Valley of the Fallen memorial mausoleum and Basilica. Photo: FC Georgio/ Wikimedia
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• Executed trade unionists’ family says gov’t failed to comply with court order
• Lawsuit filed claims Spain in violation of UN covenant on civil, political rights

After a full year of noncompliance by the Spanish government with a May 2016 court ruling that ordered the exhumation of the remains of two brothers buried at the sprawling Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen) mausoleum outside Madrid, a family member of the two men has filed a legal complaint with the United Nations in an effort to force the government to disinter the men’s remains and turn them over to the family for a proper burial.

The two men, brothers Manuel and Antonio Lapeña Altabas, both civilian trade union members and supporters of the Republican government, were executed by firing squad in October 1936 after the military uprising by forces led by Gen. Francisco Franco  and buried in Zaragoza. In 1959, their remains were transferred on the orders of Franco along with those of thousands of other Republicans killed during and after the war and reburied at the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum complex, where Franco’s own remains are buried alongside an altar in the Catholic basilica, effectively allowing the former dictator to preside over the remains of thousands of his victims to this day.

Despite a clear ruling last May by a Madrid court recognizing the right of the Lapeña to have the two men’s remains returned to them for a decent burial, the conservative Partido Popular (PP) government of President Mariano Rajoy has not complied with the court ruling.

Faced with the government’s intransigence, an attorney for María Purificación Lapeña Garrido, the granddaughter and great-niece of the two men, has filed a complaint with the United Nations claiming that Spain is in violation of Article 3 of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and en force since 1976. Spain became a signatory to the accord in September 1976. The UN has six months to rule on the complaint.

► Read More in Spanish at El Periódico, EFE and Cadena SER …

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