Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Waiting for Spain’s apology

In the summer of 1940, during the dictatorship of Franco, the exiled Catalan President Lluís Companys was detained in France, and was then taken by French and Gestapo officers to Francoist authories in Spain, who executed him. This 15th of October will be the 74th anniversary of his execution.

On 15 October 2008, the Commission on Dignity and the Vice-President’s Office of the Generalitat of Catalonia put together an Act of Amends to ex-President Lluís Companys, along with the Consul of Germany, Christine Gläser, and the Consul of France, Pascal Brice.

For Brice, the extradition of Companys was an act by Nazi Germans in French territory, and that, in any case, “historians are the ones that should settle the facts”. The Consul of Germany clearly apologized and remembered how Helmut Kohl had previously apologized for the actions of the Gestapo before [Catalan President] Jordi Pujol.

The Vice-President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Josep-Lluís Carod Rovira, also spoke and said, “What’s missing now is that the now-democratic Spain nullify the condemnation of Companys”.

On 15 October 2009, the cabinet of the Catalan government asked for the nullification of the court martial that condemned ex-President Lluís Companys, and brought the proceedings before the Spanish Attorney General. “We said that we would not stop and that there was no reason to stop until we got the nullification of the court martial”, said the 128th Catalan President, José Montilla.

President Montilla maintained that this was a “coherent gesture” and that the Generalitat waited for the completion of the “last gesture [toward Companys] that the people of Catalonia needed”. Furthermore, he recalled how Companys was killed while still being the President of the Generalitat, and that “he was shot for being the President of Catalonia”. He added, “the people of Catalonia have forgiven the act but we cannot confuse forgiveness with forgetfulness: there is still an open chapter in history that we want to close with dignity.” According to Montilla, the demand for the nullification of the court martial of the ex-President was “an ethical, political, and historical necessity” and that this was therefore a “juridical opportunity” that could not be missed. Finally, he recognized “the political effort and the moral dignity of many people and institutions” and recalled “the promise to so many Catalans, who, over the course of 70 years, have waited for a moment like this.”

The proceedings were brought to the Spanish Attorney General so that they would be brought before the Supreme Court of Spain in order to revise the court martial. This was because appeals can only be admitted if they were initiated by the defendant, his relatives, or by the Attorney General. In accordance with the criminal adjudication laws of Spain, the competent organ to settle such appeals and to nullify previous sentences is the Supreme Court of Spain. 

In 2010, the Spanish government considered it “a juridical impossibility” to nullify the proceedings against Lluís Companys. The Vice President of the Spanish governmet, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, said that the executive office did not plan to ask for the nullification of the court martial of the Catalan President Lluís Companys.





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