September 25, 2020

Argentine Justice summons Martín Villa to testify for crimes against humanity


The Argentine justice already has a date to take an investigative statement to Rodolfo Martín Villa: on September 3. The former minister is accused of crimes of aggravated homicide in a context of crimes against humanity during the Transition for massacres such as those of the Sanfermines of ’78 or the events in Vitoria. Martín Villa is the only defendant in the Argentine Complaint willing to testify.

The resolution has been filed – dated July 27, 2020 – by the head of the Federal Criminal and Correctional Court 1 of Buenos Aires (Argentina), María Servini de Cubría. The taking of testimony will be by telematic means and “in the consular representation or embassy of the aforementioned country in Spain”, as reported by the state Coordinator of support for the Argentine Complaint against crimes of Francoism (CeAQUA).

In 2014, Judge María Servini ordered Rodolfo Martín Villa arrested. Since then, his former high office in the Francisco Franco dictatorship has raffled several interrogation attempts and even an international arrest warrant for extradition purposes.

Martín Villa: “I am very calm”

“Seeing those who accuse me, I am very calm,” Martín Villa said in June 2017 when he was decorated by King Felipe VI with the former members of parliament who formed the Constituent Cortes in 1977. The former Francoist minister continues, for the moment, without giving explanations before a court for his involvement in alleged crimes against humanity.

The victims of Francoism express the “wish that finally the aforementioned procedural act can be held.” Especially after “multiple attempts” by Servini to question Martín Villa and “the constant obstruction of the Spanish State to prevent it,” they emphasize from CeAQUA.

“We hope that Martín Villa, as he has repeatedly expressed, complies with his obligation and persists on the date indicated so that the Argentine judicial authorities can take an investigative statement from him,” they point out. Once the summons has been executed, Judge María Servini “will be able to decide what is appropriate regarding its prosecution,” they clarify.

The Transition killings

Rodolfo Martín Villa is under investigation for a total of 12 crimes of aggravated homicide in a context of crimes against humanity during the Spanish Transition. Argentine justice imputes the participation of the former minister of Franco in several massacres.

One, the Vitoria massacre on March 3, 1976. Five workers are killed by shots fired by the Armed Police, in a church previously “gassed”. The repression against the workers leaves more than 100 people injured, the majority by firearms. Martín Villa was Minister of Trade Union Relations of the Government chaired by Carlos Arias Navarro.

In the same year, 76 the so-called ‘guerrillas of Cristo Rey’ kill a woman in Santurce. The far-right group was “protected by the police,” according to the complaint in the hands of Judge Servini. 77 adds a student who died in a demonstration asking for amnesty for the political prisoners of the dictatorship and three others who died, one of them after “thirteen days of painful agony” due to police torture.

The events of Sanfermines del 78. One of the most violent episodes of police repression in the Transition. The trigger is the display of a banner in favor of total amnesty. A student is shot in the forehead, and more than 150 are injured. The incidents spread throughout Navarra and the Basque Country. Another young man is assassinated days later in Donostia. Martín Villa, in these cases, is in charge of the State Security forces as Interior or Interior Minister.

“Systematic plan” to “eliminate opponents”

María Servini investigates whether these murders are framed in “specific events” or are crimes committed in Spain between 1936 and 1977 “within the framework of a decided and systematic plan of attack preconceived to eliminate all political opponents.” The crimes against humanity imputed to the former minister are punishable “with the penalties of imprisonment or life imprisonment” under Argentine law.

But, until now, Martín Villa dodges the trace on the massacres that the Argentine justice imputes to him. The first international arrest warrant for extradition purposes was issued in October 2014 and reached other high-ranking Francoists. The then Minister of Justice, Rafael Catalá, helped to haggle the request for preventive arrest issued by the Argentine section of Interpol.

The chronology of a frustrated statement begins in early 2015: Servini announces that he will question the accused in Spain and the Council of Ministers chaired by Mariano Rajoy shields the boycott of the Argentine Complaint.

In 2016 the judge attended a first rogatory commission (international judicial assistance) and summoned Martín Villa in Spanish courts, but Spain gained time asking Argentina for the questions it would ask the accused. Spanish justice does not collaborate.

Shortly after, Martín Villa adds a new victory: he could go to declare Argentina without risk of being arrested. The Federal Criminal and Correctional Chamber of Argentina heeded his appeal and revoked the international search and arrest warrant issued against him by Judge Servini de Cubría, forcing his complaint to be reviewed.

The National Court rejected in October 2018 that the southern country took a declaration from the former Francoist minister. Judge José de la Mata argued, among other reasons, that according to Spanish legislation the crimes attributed to him would have prescribed and that the Amnesty Law would be violated. Although Martín Villa himself has never asked to take refuge in these assumptions.

The judge again demanded the taking of an investigative statement on March 28, 2019, after a meeting with MEP Ana Miranda (BNG). The last episode was falsely closed in February 2020. The magistrate intended to travel to Spain to take an investigative statement from Rodolfo Martín Villa on March 20. The appointment, postponed, was at the Argentine embassy in Madrid.

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