Digging up Spain’s past: consequences of truth and reconciliation

Blakeley, Georgina (2005). Digging up Spain’s past: consequences of truth and reconciliation. Democratization, 12(1) pp. 44–59.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1351034042000317952


Over the last decade the issue of transitional justice has attracted considerable media and academic attention. Diverse countries including such high profile cases as Chile, South Africa and the former East Germany have attempted to grapple with the complex question of how to respond to human rights abuses committed under a previous regime. Transitional justice generally surfaces as an issue during democratic transition. It is less common for this issue of past human rights abuses to be raised when democratic transition has been completed and democracy is fully consolidated. The subject of this article, however, is Spain, where the human rights abuses committed during the 1936-39 civil war, and the long Francoist dictatorship that followed, have only recently come to the fore, a full quarter of a century after the transition to democracy. The article argues that the current struggle to recover the bodies of the disappeared, and their historical memory, represents a significant case which not only provides new insights into the particular democratization process in Spain but also provides more general lessons for other countries grappling with similar problems.

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