Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Parliament calls to annul summary courts-martials during Franco regime


Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan Parliament this Wednesday made an unprecedented step since democracy was restored in Spain. The chamber approved a bill that aims at declaring null and void all the summary court-martials and the verdicts dictated in Catalonia for political reasons during the Franco regime. This is the first time in 41 years that an institution adopts such an ambitious agreement. The approval of the proposal was very emotional as dozens of relatives of the victims of fascism filled the public gallery of the Parliament. Among them, the sisters of the anarchist Salvador Puig Antich, who was one of the last victims of the Francoist garrotte executions for political reasons, and relatives of the Catalan President Lluís Companys, who was executed in 1940.

This proposal of judicial reparation for the “dignity” of the victims was driven by the cross-party pro-independence coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’, the radical-left CUP and the alternative left-coalitionCatalunya Sí que es Pot' (CSQP).

The text proposes to "declare invalid and without legal effect all summary court-martials and the corresponding sentences instructed by the regime for political reasons". The text also contemplates that the Catalan Department of Justice "issue if requested by the accused or their relatives a certification of the annulment of the procedure and the corresponding sentence".

 “We have an outstanding debt with the people who fought and with the victims of the dictatorship", said the deputy of ‘Junts pel Sí’, Montserrat Palau. "We will not have full democracy without the ethical duty and obligation to restore the dignity and memory of those who gave their lives for democratic ideals: you cannot be democratic without being anti-Francoist”, the politician added.

For his part, the deputy of CSQP Joan Josep Nuet recalled that those processed and executed during the Franco regime "were not criminals" but "freedom fighters, revolutionaries, anarchists, Catalan communists”. "It is about time that for the first time in the history of Spain we say ‘enough’, we say that those trials were a farce", he stated.

Relatives of the victims witnessed the passing of the bill

Relatives of the victims of Francoism, many of them with pictures of their beloved ones on their chests, celebrated with emotion that the Catalan Parliament did "justice" by annulling the summary court-martials of the dictatorship and stated that they expect the Spanish Government to respect this decision.

All the relatives were welcomed in the Chamber with a one-minute-long standing ovation by the deputies. The spokesman of the ‘Commission for the Dignity of Catalonia’, an NGO that aims to return the documents confiscated by Franco’s troops at the end of the Spanish Civil War to their rightful owners in Catalonia, Josep Cruanyes, said that this Wednesday is an "historic day" and stressed it is a "joy" to the victims and to the country that the Parliament took this step.

Cruanyes added that it is “unimaginable” that the Spanish Government will raise an appeal against this decision by the Catalan Parliament and defended that this institution has the powers to make this annulment.

In this vein, member of the CUP Mireia Boya challenged the "politicised justice" to curb the steps to be made from now on by the Catalan Parliament in this regard. "Run to the Constitutional Court and to Europe and tell them you do not want to annul the sentences of fascism”, the politician urged with sarcasm.

"78,331 people processed, 3,358 executed. For them we become sovereign and we annul their trials. The memory of the victims cannot wait", said Boya, who added that "today we can say that we are a little more free”.  

An alternative motion

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) will submit an alternative proposal to the Bureau of the Spanish Congress in order to amend Law 52/2007 of the State on historical memory. The party argued that, despite sharing the relevance to annul these court-martial sentences, the bill passed will have a "technical difficulty" as it collides with the powers of the State. The anti-Catalan nationalism Ciudadans (C’s) announced it will give support to this proposal by the PSC.

According to the Socialist deputy Fernando Pedret the approach of ‘Junts pel Sí, CUP and CSQP is "short" in scope because it does not include proceedings against Catalans outside Catalonia, for example, those deported to Nazi concentration camps.

The plenary session developed without incident, but was marred by some reproval and whistles from the public gallery after the intervention of the People’s Party (PP) deputy Fernando Sánchez Costa, who stated that the Spanish amnesty law already included reparations for the victims and wondered what the time limit is for review of the historical processes.

Summary proceedings during Franco dictatorship

One of the instruments of repression of the Franco regime were trials based on the Military Justice Code (CJM). The military courts responsible for its implementation were known as court-martials and, according to article 50 of the CJM, were composed by a President and six other members. All of them, even the prosecutor and the defence lawyers were soldiers. Legal representation was not required.

In the Francoist court-martials the time between the reading of the charges and the celebration of the trial was shortened so that there was not enough time to collect new evidence. Depending on the gravity of the cases, the legal proceedings could be summary trials, in those situations considered of extreme seriousness, or ordinarily, which accounted for longer periods of instruction and, therefore, the provision of more time to obtain exculpatory evidence and to prepare the defence. The majority of politicians on the Republican side, such as Lluís Companys, were condemned by summary court-martials.

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  • Family picture of the victims of Francoism with the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont; the President of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and the Catalan Ministers Mundó and Romeva (by ANC).
  • The Catalan Parliament Chamber after initiating the proceedings to annul the Francoist summary courts-martial this Wednesday 19th of October 2016 (by ACN)