International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearances: Nothing to Celebrate in Spain

This International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearances, RIS insists that the best tribute the Spanish government can pay to victims and families is to comply with its international obligations.

On this International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearances, celebrated every year on August 30, Rights International Spain issued the following statement:

On International Day of Victims of Forced Disappearances, there is little to celebrate in Spain. The Spanish government has an outstanding debt with the victims and still fails to comply with its international obligations on forced disappearance.

The demands and activities carried out by the family members of victims of forced disappearance to discover the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones, for justice and for reparations, continue to hit a dead end. Authorities continually fail to provide measures that guarantee rights, including the suppression of legal obstacles that allow for the exercise and practice of these rights.

According to international law, the Spanish government (including its judicial body) is obligated to establish the truth on human rights violations that took place during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship; thoroughly and effectively investigate forced disappearances; identify and prosecute those responsible, and, where appropriate, apply sanctions that take into account the extreme seriousness of the crimes, as well as provide complete and integral reparations for the victims.

Spanish authorities should also recognize once and for all the continual nature of forced disappearance as well as expressly classify it as a separate offense. They should explicitly recognize it as an international crime and make clear adjustments to the definition contained in Article 2 of the International Convention that protects all people from forced disappearance. The recent reform to the criminal code disregards the demands prescribed by international standards in this area.

Various mechanisms that protect human rights have reminded Spain of its obligations, especially in recent years where they have been quite critical towards the attitude of the Spanish government.

In May 2015, the UN’s Committee Against Torture (CAT) once again reminded the Spanish government that acts of torture, including forced disappearance, are neither subject to prescription nor to amnesty. The CAT insisted on Spain’s obligation to impartially and thoroughly investigate these crimes in light of its international obligations.

The Human Rights Committee was the last body of the UN to reiterate in July 2015 its disapproval of the lack of investigation into crimes that occurred during the Civil War and under Franco including forced disappearance. The Committee also recommended the repeal of the Amnesty Law.

In short, it is time for the Spanish government to put an end to their behavior that continuously and deliberately ignores the rights of victims of forced disappearance to justice, truth, and reparations.