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  • German General Karl Wolff, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and Spanish General Francisco Franco, in Madrid, Spain.

    German General Karl Wolff, SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and Spanish General Francisco Franco, in Madrid, Spain. | Photo: Bundesarchiv

Published 12 June 2018

A court in Argentina embraced the case of two Spanish families in their investigation over Francisco Franco's crimes against humanity after originally rejecting them.

A Tribunal in Argentina recognized the right for the families of two victims of the Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco to include their cases in an Argentine investigation, appealing to the “universal justice principle” and marking a historic event in international law.

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The appeal was approved by a 2-1 vote at the country's Federal Chamber of Cassation after a lower court had rejected the families request to be included in the investigation over the crimes against humanity committed by Franco's regime between 1936 and 1977.

The first case is that of Jose Salmeron Cespedes, a policeman who remained loyal to the Spanish Republic when Franco's forces took over the country. He was tortured and executed in the first years of the civil war in Tetouan, then part of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco. The case had been originally rejected because it occurred outside of the official limits of the state.

His grandson Benedicto Salmero tried to include the case in the Argentine investigation, the only one of its kind in the world, as part of the systematic crimes against humanity committed during Franco's regime and demanded a search for his grandfather's body, which he believes is buried in the European cemetery of Tetouan.

The other case is that of Gustavo Adolfo Muñoz de Bustillo, a 16-year-old teenager killed by the police on Sept. 11, 1978, during violent events that took place in the transitional period in Barcelona. The case was rejected by judge Maria Servini because it happened after the 1977 elections that ousted Franco.

But now, the federal court ruled that the connection of the crimes with Franco's regime “doesn't depend on their time and place, but their specific characteristics and the context in which they were committed,” allowing the affected families to access justice for their relatives.

Judge Hornos questioned the interpretation given to the “universal justice doctrine” by lower courts and appealed to other important international cases especially those dealing with crimes against humanity.

He mentioned the “Hostages case” and the ruling of the military tribunal of Nurenberg, or the Yerodia case in which a court in Belgium ordered the arrest of the Congolese Foreign Affairs Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia for the massacres in the Great Lakes region.

He regretted the decision of lower courts to reject the families' petition and said justice goes beyond formalities of borders and time-frames.


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