You are here

Reprisals during the Late-Franco period (1960-1978)

Memory. The repression during the last yeas of the Franco Regime was prolonged after the dictator's death. This historical period is being reviewed from the perspective of transitional justice.

Barcelona City Council has approved a regulation to recognise people who suffered reprisals during the Late-Franco period, through an evaluation committee.

As the City Council reports, the driving force behind this evaluation committee aims to not only recognise and pay tribute to the persons who suffered the violation of their right to life and physical, psychological, moral and sexual integrity, but also to foster reflection on the city’s past and become an exercise in recognition and gratitude to all the historical-memory organisations which fight for justice, reparation and truth.

The Late-Franco period is generally thought to begin in 1960 and it is marked by events such as the assassination of Admiral Carrero Blanco in 1973, and the death of Franco in 1975, although the period of repression continued until well into 1978.


Forgotten deaths

To win freedom,
how many brothers had to fall.

Miquel Grau is no longer here,
solitude alas, alas, alas…
Miquel Grau is no longer here,
when we were all expecting him today.

(Al Tall)

The Franco regime’s repression did not stop until the last minute, and there continued to be many victims of extreme right-wing violence during the first years of democracy. Many of these victims have still not been recognised. The verses reproduced above are from the song “To Miquel Grau”, by Al Tall. They concern one of the murders committed during the Late-Franco period, specifically of a Communist Movement militant in the Valencian Community. He was killed by a brick thrown down from a flat by an extreme right-wing militant. The murderer was pardoned by the UCD government after serving 4 of a 12 year sentence (he is now an attorney at law in Valencia).

This is one of the 25 cases covered in the report “25 (violent) deaths in Catalan Countries during the Transition which have been forgotten”, recently published by ‘El Crític’. 12 of them occurred in Barcelona (taking into account that the article covers the period from 1975 to 1981). The report includes other cases, such as that of a 16 year-old JERC militant who was shot dead by the police in Carrer Ferran in Barcelona in 1978, and the double murder of Juana Caso and José Muñoz in Cabrera de Mar in 1980, allegedly at the hands of a member of Fuerza Nueva [New Force].


Scope and structure of Late-Franco period repression

CREATION OF THE REPRESSIVE SYSTEM: Something that Manuel Fraga Iribarne said in 1944, during the immediate post-war period, has become famous: “The law is something like a long-range cannon” (‘Revista General de Legislación y Jurisprudencia’). According to Javier Tébar Hurtado, this is a policy that defines the nature and the basis for the Franco Regime’s repression, which was perpetuated after his death. This University of Barcelona History professor makes an interesting analysis in his unpublished work “People who suffered reprisals involving institutional violence during the Late-Franco period and the Transition to Democracy”, which will be mentioned in the following paragraphs.

The statistics of repression during the Late-Franco period quoted in this study are frightening:

  • 74.733 people arrested for political motives from 1959 to 1976, 68,400 of whom were charged;
  • and 1,817 civilians tried by court martial from 1969 to 1975, and 8,943 political trials.

The nature of the repression was anti-worker, class-orientated and anti trade union, and torture was used habitually. Furthermore, people were executed without legal guarantees, either by firing squad or by garrotte (nine people between 1963 and 1975, including well-known cases such as Julián Grimau and Salvador Puig Antich).

According to Tébar, in reality, repression during the Franco Regime and the Late-Franco period was part of a complex structure. Due to its organic nature, the army was a key factor for maintaining the regime, a factor that began during the war and later became more sophisticated. In other words, justice was controlled by military power. And this did not stop with the end of the most repressive period of the Franco Regime, because a dual system was created, in which the military administration punished the most serious cases, while the civil courts took care of the rest. In fact, the military administration had responsibilities in security matters and in any act “against social harmony”.

The military administration had responsibilities in security matters and in any act “against social harmony”

Throughout the 1950s, the “political police” were reinforced in an attempt to achieve a normal legal appearance. They investigated certain “political crimes”, instead of applying martial law and giving responsibility to the army. The idea was to construct a complex administrative network that did not detract from military power, but rather the reverse. Furthermore, this was a response to the appearance of new social protests.

The police became established as an apparatus for repression in 1939, through what was known as the General Directorate for Security, something that would not change until 1975.  In this body, the police forces in charge of repression, especially the Guàrdia Civil, the armed police and the Political-Social Brigade, were structured entirely along military lines. This repressive force was connected to the state documentation service, the Document Recuperation Service, which provided information to the political police, and had its headquarters in Salamanca.

In order to reinforce the repressive apparatus, by means of various laws, states of emergency became commonplace.  These regulations came to fruition with the Public Order Act, where a state of emergency was normalised from 1956 to 1975 (Tébar has counted up to 11 state-of-emergency situations lasting between 2 and 6 months). Furthermore, any kind of public speaking (speeches, manifestos) had to be approved by the General Directorate for Propaganda, with the exception of those from the Church or the Falange. Court martials also became the norm and put an end to any kind of displays of dissidence.

The constitution of the Public Order Tribunal (TOP) in 1963 also created an instrument for persecuting political dissidence (with special emphasis on communism and the masons) and for repression run by a civil body rather than a military one, which “civilised” the repression. Over 22,600 procedures were aimed at repressing the association movement, propaganda, meetings and demonstrations that were considered to be illegal activities.

VIOLENCE MOTIVATED BY SEX OR GENDER: The Franco Regime’s résumé of repression also includes repressive and humiliating treatment motivated by sex, gender or sexual orientation. This violence was especially exercised in the areas of morality and education. For example, in regard to women, the Women’s Section, founded and directed by Pilar Primo de Rivera (the sister of the founder of the Spanish Falange, José Antonio Primo de Rivera), was a body dedicated to the symbolic modelling, control and repression of women.

In order to see the scope of the sexual violence and humiliating degradation carried out against women, we reproduce a fragment from the advice to women on how to behave with their husbands:  “Regarding the possibility of intimate relations with your husband, it is important to remember your marital obligations: if he feels the need to sleep, so be it. Do not pressure him or stimulate intimate contact. If your husband suggests union, then you should humbly accept, always considering that his satisfaction is more important than that of a woman. When you reach the culminating moment, a slight moan on your part is sufficient to indicate any enjoyment you may have experienced. If your husband asks for unusual sexual practices, be obedient and don’t complain”.

It institutionalises submission in women, and pursues homosexuality through the Social Danger and Rehabilitation Act

This advice could be extended to all the humiliating behaviour endured by women with their husbands. Lucas Platero observed the following: “We could ask ourselves why so few women were subjected to this repression that was based on current legislation; the answer lies in a transference to other repressive institutions, as I have said, including the Catholic religion and Church and psychiatry, which were all at the service of National Catholicism. These institutions were complicit in the domestication and submission of all women, even more so in the case of those women who broke away from the prescribed social norms, for those who fought for their ideals, or who were simply independent.”

Homosexuality was considered to be a socially dangerous practice, following the same canon defined by Catholicism. Moreover, as late as 1970, this danger was included in the Social Danger and Rehabilitation Act. In this regard, Platero also says (quoting Alberto Pérez) that “the Franco Regime’s reaction against homosexuality can be explained as the fear of, and protection against, the homo-eroticism of fascism –so cultivated in segregated environments, in order to promote the strength of young bodies and virility linked to warlike behaviour–; continuity difficulties for the dictatorship, as well as evidence that homosexual behaviour questioned the very foundations of National Catholicism.”


Within the framework of transitional justice

This municipal initiative for recognising the people who suffered the reprisals of the Late-Franco period coincides, at a Spanish level, with a proposal for reactivating the Law on Historical Memory, which was shelved by the previous government; it is known as the “Draft Law for reforming Act 52/2007, of 26 December, which recognises and extends rights and establishes measures in favour of those who suffered persecution or violence during the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship”.

The International Center of Transitional Justice (ICTJ) welcomes this law, and is happy that a Commission of Truth is being established to investigate and try the crimes of Francisco Franco, even though he has been dead for 40 years. “With this new law, the criminal records of those arrested for opposing Franco would be clarified and organisations that celebrate the dictator’s memory would be banned.”

The ICTJ is the leading organisation for what is known as “transitional justice”. This is the process of change that a country must follow when it passes from a dictatorship to democracy, in order to legally and politically demand reparation for the damage inflicted on the victims. The steps that must be followed in these processes are based on a series of responses to massive infringements of human rights, which include:

  • exposing the truth about past atrocities,
  • holding the authors responsible,
  • offering reparation to the victims,
  • and fundamentally reforming state and social institutions that permitted, and in many cases took part in, those atrocities.

According to the ICTJ, although the Spanish Armed Forces have experienced major changes, there are transitional-justice processed that have not been dealt with. After a visit to this country, David Tolbert, the president of the ICTJ, analysed the lack of a state response to the claims made by the victims.

“During my visit to Spain”, explains Tolbert, “I was able to observe first-hand the country’s paradoxical situation in terms of its traumatic past. Although it is a consolidated democracy, the country has failed to tackle many of the crimes committed during the Civil War and the Franco Regime.(···) Consequently, the country and its democratic institutions coexist with a persisting impunity and with deep wounds that, while separating the opposing sides during the war, have now taken on an inter-generational nature”.

It is still necessary to eliminate Franco Regime symbolism, exhume buried victims and reinforce the teaching of Civil War studies

His recommendations include launching initiatives such as: eliminating symbols that glorify the Civil War and Franco, reinforcing the teaching of Civil War studies, establishing institutions dedicated to historical memory and facilitating the process of exhuming buried victims.

 The subject of forced disappearances was emphasised by Fernando Travesí, the managing director of iCTJ, who affirmed: “There are over 100,000 cases of forced disappearances that have not yet been solved and very few mass graves have been exhumed. The families of victims who were executed without trial are still waiting for some measure of justice for their loss”.


The requests from Amnesty International and the United Nations

The obligation of investigating the crimes of the Franco Regime and the Civil War and guaranteeing the rights of the victims are under scrutiny by Amnesty International. According to that organisation, Spain is not meeting those obligations.

For example, in 2008 a report the organisation revealed the direct responsibility of Spanish authorities and their unwillingness to process a case on past events during the Franco Regime and the Civil War. More specifically, it criticised that, at that time, a court belonging to the National High Court declared that a dispute presented in 2006 by the Association for the Recuperation of Historical Memory for homicides and forced disappearances was beyond its jurisdiction (Central Court Nº 5).

According to Amnesty International, Spanish judges show a continued tendency to shelve cases concerning this subject “with the aim of opposing the Spanish state’s obligation to investigate, on the basis of reasonable evidence, the committing of systematic or large-scale forced disappearances”.

UAn AI report denounces the unwillingness of part of the Spanish justice system to deal with crimes from the Civil War and the Franco Regime

In 2012, in another report, the same organisation detected clear indications that Spanish judges were unwilling to collaborate in seeking justice for Civil War and Franco Regime crimes. In a 2012 Supreme Court sentence, the Court offered various reasons for not investigating those cases, including the existence of an amnesty law, that the crime was covered by the statute of limitations, that it was impossible to try crimes that were not defined at that time or that the authors were all dead.

Amnesty International also denounces the lack of action concerning exhumations, when it states in a 2017 report that in many cases Spanish state institutions “do not send official representatives when a grave is discovered and that leads to the absence of official registries for exhumations. As a consequence, a perverse effect is created which means that relatives must choose between their right to bury their loved ones and the chance of one day establishing an ‘official’ truth about the circumstances of their death”.

In this sense, as a recommendation from Pablo de Greiff, the United Nations special rapporteur for “promoting truth, justice, reparation and ensuring that there will be no repetition”: “Given the strength of the Spanish state, the maturity of civil society and the lessons learned both inside and outside Spain in relevant subjects, the special rapporteur calls for state institutions and civil society to place the idea of rights at the centre of the debate on how to tackle the tasks that are still outstanding, regardless of any political considerations.”

Content produced by the Human Resources Centre

Share this content