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Amnesty urges action for Spanish Civil War victims

Written by: Staff

MADRID, Mar 31 (Reuters) Spain's government must do more for victims of its Civil War and dictatorship, investigating mass graves scientifically and opening up archives, human rights group Amnesty International said.

Hundreds of thousands of people died in the Civil War and many thousands disappeared or were tortured or imprisoned during General Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship.

''The State is doing absolutely nothing,'' said Esteban Beltran, head of Amnesty's Spanish section yesterday. ''It is showing no signs of wanting to lift the barriers.'' Amnesty criticised an inter-ministerial commission for making no significant progress after nearly two years of work.

It said Madrid should fund controlled investigation of burial sites and treat them like crime scenes with forensic experts making sure evidence is collected properly.

Amnesty believs tens of thousands of Spaniards are buried in mass graves that date from the Civil War and its aftermath.

The human rights group also said a draft law on rights for Civil War victims, which is more than a year late, should include wide-ranging provisions to improve archives.

FILES AND DOCUMENTS It called on the government to open its files, which are difficult to gain access to, to improve conditions under which papers are being kept and to employ experts to index and maintain documents for the future.

''This isn't a case of right or left, it's a case of human rights and international law,'' Beltran told a news conference, making it clear there were victims on both sides of the conflict, which started 70 years ago.

Many Spaniards prefer not to rake up a violent past and memories of a war and aftermath of the war but others are still fighting for truth and reparations for what they suffered.

A new Amnesty report gave examples of families who tried to have decades-old death sentences on a relative annulled, only to be rejected by courts on the grounds that the case came under a 1977 amnesty or that, at the time, death sentences were legal.

''Magistrates are systematically and actively opposing the annulment of death sentences,'' said Eva Suarez-Llanos, author of the report.

Reuters PV DS1130

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