The exhumation of Francisco Franco

On 17 June 2018, just two weeks after Pedro Sánchez’s investiture, the new Prime Minister of Spain announced that the process to exhume Franco’s remains would be triggered in line with the Committee’s recommendation. On 24 August, the Government passed Royal Decree-Law 10/2018, in an amendment to Law 52/2007, establishing that only the mortal remains of those who had died as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War could rest in the Valley, which was to become a site of commemoration, remembrance and homage to the victims of the conflict. The Decree was adopted by parliament on 13 September, with just two votes against and the abstention of Partido Popular and Ciudadanos.

Francisco Franco’s family opposed the exhumation and took the case before a series of judicial bodies. They also indicated that, if the body were disinterred, the final resting place should be La Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, where they have a private crypt with the remains of the dictator’s daughter, Carmen Franco Polo, and her husband Cristóbal Martínez-Bordiú. However, the Government invoked potential public order issues at this location and stated its preference for the Cemetery of Mingorrubio, in El Pardo, where Franco’s wife Carmen Polo is buried.

In February 2019, the Government approved the final exhumation order. In April the same year, the dictator’s family and the Francisco Franco National Foundation appealed to the Supreme Court, which halted the exhumation on a precautionary basis. The Prior of the Benedictine community at the Valley also opposed the exhumation. On 24 September, the Supreme Tribunal delivered its ruling, unanimously authorizing the disinterment on the terms requested by the Government. Franco’s family then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which declared the appeal inadmissible as no violation of fundamental rights could be ascertained.

The Secretary General for the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, took responsibility for reaching an agreement with the family on the terms of the transfer and the coordination of the technical details. On 24 October, Francisco Franco’s remains were exhumed and transferred by helicopter to the family vault in Mingorrubio Cemetery. The Justice Minister Dolores Delgado acted as Senior Notary of the Kingdom of Spain. The exhumation was shown live by Spanish public broadcaster RTVE.

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