December 10, 2013
Madrid silent after Franco-era warrants
Families of victims celebrate Servini de Cubría’s move but government avoids issueA day after Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría issued an arrest warrant against four security officers who allegedly carried out crimes during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refused to confirm whether the government in Madrid would extradite the accused. Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires City, lawyers and relatives of the victims were still celebrating the judicial decision.
“This is a historic moment. We never thought we would be able to reach this decision,” Adriana Fernández, whose grandfather was killed in 1936 in Spain, told the Herald minutes before a news conference to discuss the warrant at the Buenos Aires Bar Association.
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and Franco’s reign (1939-1975), thousands of people were thrown in jail, Amnesty International estimates that more than 114,000 people were forcibly disappeared and buried in unmarked graves and Judge Baltasar Garzón said that around 30,000 children were taken from their families in the first decade of the dictatorship. The Spanish government has never prosecuted those responsible for the crimes.
Three years ago, Darío Rivas, a 93-year-old man whose father was killed in the Iberian Peninsula, filed a complaint with judge Servini de Cubría. Rivas, alongside human rights activists as well as a group of lawyers led by Carlos Slepoy, said that Argentina could examine those offences due to the inaction of the Spanish courts.
On Wednesday, they celebrated their first victory, when Servini de Cubría ordered the search and arrest of Jesús Muñecas Aguilar, Celso Galván Abascal, José Ignacio Giralte González and Juan Antonio González Pacheco. The Argentine Judge accuses them of having tortured political prisoners during the last years of Franco’s dictatorship.
“We wanted more people included,” lawyer Máximo Castex highlighted. “We wanted the judge to go deeper in the chain of command and also analyze the conduct of two former magistrates.”
The lawyers representing the victims of Franco’s dictatorship had requested the federal judge to issue a warrant to detain five additional people but she dismissed their petition because she considered that there was not enough evidence.
Slepoy explained to the Herald that three of them were former ministers and the other two were judges that either approved the death penalty in particular circumstances or did not oppose the use of torture against political prisoners.
One of the officials who was not included in Servini de Cubría’s ruling was José Utrera Molina, who authorized the execution of the young anarchist activist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974. Utrera Molina heads the Francisco Franco National Foundation and is the father in law of Spain’s Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón.
Franco’s Labour minister Fernando Suárez González is also accused of having given the green light for the killings of five activists in 1975. Rodolfo Martín Villa ordered an operation in 1976 in Vitoria, Basque region, against workers protesting in a church, which left five people dead and 150 injured.
“We think that in the future, judge Servini de Cubría will issue a detention warrant against them,” Slepoy said optimistically.
“I do not want to discuss an issue that I only know through the media and I think it’s a topic for the courts. I think a judge is involved,” Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said yesterday, trying to evade making strong statements on the detention warrants.
Although he did not say the Rajoy administration would reject Servini de Cubría’s order, he argued: “We are the ones who should solve these problems.”
Lawyers believe the Spanish authorities will not enforce the detention warrants but, because they were also sent to Interpol, the four security officers will not be able to leave the country in order to avoid their arrest.
“What the Argentine judiciary is doing is essential to wake their Spanish colleagues up,” Slepoy said.
“We want them to examine the crimes committed in their own country,” Beinusz Szmukler, the president of the Buenos Aires Bar Association, added.
On November 20, Spanish members of Parliament will arrive in Argentina to meet Servini de Cubría.