Spain exhumes civil war victim as calls grow for truth commission

The Telegraph

As volunteers dig for the remains of Timoteo Mendieta, Spanish politicians are being urged to open an investigation into the civil war 

When volunteers start digging for the remains of Timoteo Mendieta on Tuesday, it will mark the first exhumation of a civil war victim to take place under a court order since the Spanish dictator’s death in 1975.

Mendieta, murdered by pro-Franco forces in 1939, was placed in a mass grave on the edge of Guadalajara cemetery, one of more than 100,000 victims of summary executions during the 1936-39 civil war and the repression meted out by Franco’s fascist regime in its aftermath.

Aside from some recent efforts to remove symbols which celebrate Francoism, Spain’s democratic institutions have done little to atone for the violence.

Mendieta's daughter, now 90, has fought for years to have the mass grave examined
Spanish dictator Francisco Franco

Ascensión Mendieta travelled to Argentina in search of justice - it was a Buenos Aires judge, investigating crimes against humanity committed by the Franco regime, who requested the exhumation. Unprecedentedly, a court in Spain agreed to the dig.

“The Spanish state cannot ignore the victims,” said Jordi Gordon, a journalist and filmmaker who is leading the Platform for a Truth Commission, which has the backing of around 100 associations linked to the historical memory movement around Spain.

Mr Gordon launched his campaign after the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised Spain for standing aside and leaving the work of exhuming bodies to associations of volunteers. Establishing a truth commission was among a series of recommendations made by the UN in 2014, but the Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has done nothing to implement this action plan.

The Rajoy administration also left the existing historical memory law “dead in the water” by eliminating its budget, said Mr Gordon.

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