Spain had already inaugurated democracy after the Franco dictatorship when Laura Perales gave birth to her second child. After the delivery, in 1980, she spent two days with him, but then a nurse she did not know took him away for a test and did not see him again. For a whole day he did not know what was happening, until he was informed that he had died. Her husband insisted that his wish was to bury him in Villena (Alicante), his city, but the hospital told them that it had to be in the capital. They were handed a sealed box and never saw the body. MZ is 48 years old and looking for his biological mother. When she was 11 her parents told her she was an adopted child, but she didn’t inquire about her origins until they died. In 2008 she discovered that her birth certificate appears as the biological daughter of her adoptive parents, but her aunt confirmed that her mother had never been pregnant because she was sterile and that in 1972 they had disappeared from town for three days without warning and returned with her.
The first trial for a stolen baby shows the battery of obstacles that weighs down the rest of the cases
Both put a face to one of the darkest episodes in the history of our country: the so-called ‘stolen babies’, a plot of child abductions protected by the Franco regime and that extended beyond the dictatorship, until the 1990s, and designed to satisfy the demand of minors from other families. Their cases are part of the report Time of truth and justice. Human rights violations in cases of stolen babies, prepared by Amnesty International and made public this Tuesday to try to shed light on this reality.
Laura never suspected what had happened until in the mid-90s she received a letter addressed to her son to join the military service, she explained to the organization, that she has had access to contradictory documentation from the hospital about the alleged cause. of the death of the baby: one states that he was operated on a lung and died of respiratory failure, another says that it was a cardiac arrest and a third indicates that it occurred because “the machine that made the x-ray of the lungs was damaged” . Laura filed a complaint and got a court to order the exhumation in 2013 at the place where her son was allegedly buried. Several remains from six different boxes were tested, but DNA tests were negative. After that, the investigation was closed.
“What I need are answers. Why it was done like this, who did it and who allowed it. And to know what happened and who my mother is. What I’m looking for is that,” MZ claims in a video accompanying the report. “And where do I come from? I have the right to know the truth,” adds the woman, who came to undergo a DNA test with her adoptive mother’s sister, who tested negative. MZ has tried to search for official documents that could prove his adoption process, but “it does not appear in any of the records that could prove his delivery to his adoptive family,” concludes the study, prepared between December 2018 and March 2021.
During the investigation, Amnesty International has identified some common elements in these cases. It is recurrent to find that the women who denounce the abduction of their children were of humble origin, young mothers, and even single mothers, in a context in which women were denied the ability to make decisions about their life, their motherhood and their sons. The complaints for these events allege circumstances that are frequently repeated: the death of the baby was reported, which in many cases could not be seen, and / or whose burial the hospital was in charge of. In the search processes, there is a lack of information, or erroneous or false documentation.
Based on the testimonies and the documentation it has accessed, Amnesty International concludes that there are events that “could constitute cases of forced disappearance, in accordance with international law” and many of them violate various human rights such as “the protection of the private and family life, which includes the right to identity and to know one’s biological origin “. “During the investigation, we have documented cases in which there are indications that the three elements established by international law exist to consider that we can speak of forced disappearance: first, the abduction of the baby; second, with the participation, or with the tolerance or acquiescence of the State, and, third, the refusal by the authorities to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, “explains the investigator and author of the report, Daniel Canales.
More than 2,000 proceedings in ten years
However, the organization denounces a “lack of response on the part of the State” to those who “have been looking for decades” for their relatives, since “their search processes continue to encounter numerous obstacles, and they turn out to be, for the most part, unsuccessful.” And it is that many of these people have undertaken investigations almost without the support of the Administrations that have ended up becoming authentic bureaucratic and judicial labyrinths. Amnesty International “has found that the response by the authorities has been inadequate, insufficient and therefore constitutes a non-compliance of the obligations internationally contracted by Spain “, concludes the report.
According to data collected by the organization, the State Attorney General’s Office has undertaken “numerous investigations”, but they have yielded “few material results.” Of the total of 2,138 investigation procedures opened from 2011 to March 2021, only five were still in process in September 2019 and in March 2021, only one investigation procedure remains in process, in Barcelona. And of the total, only 526 have been prosecuted – none in 2019 or 2020. On the other hand, justice has ended up filing most of the complaints filed alleging, among other things, the prescription of the facts, “thereby denying the continuous nature of the forced disappearance”, in the opinion of the NGO.
This is what happened to Marga Calvo, a woman who was told on July 22, 1975 at the San Juan de Dios clinic in Santurtzi (Vizcaya) before giving birth to her first child who was dead. She, however, felt him move “as in the entire pregnancy, with a lot of vitality,” she recalls, but the midwife assured her that “that was the placenta, the womb is what moves.” When she was giving birth, she remembers that they slept her and woke up alone in the room until the gynecologist confirmed that she had been dead for about 24 hours. Marga and her husband asked for an autopsy on the baby, but the medical staff refused, telling them that she would have died from “placental insufficiency” and from Marga having a “bicornuate womb.” Subsequent medical analyzes requested by the woman confirmed that her placenta did not present any observable damage and ruled out that she had a bicornuate matrix.
Marga filed a complaint with the judicial authorities, but was filed by prescription. The Court of Instruction No. 1 of Barakaldo made the decision in 2012, which was confirmed a year later by the Provincial Court of Vizcaya. The woman tried to have it reopened in 2018, but the judge shelved her case. She continues to search: “It is a pain that I cannot overcome. There is a question in my life, which I have had from the beginning. Because if things were to square me, what would I doubt. What I am looking for is a dead baby, and since I can’t find him, I’m looking for him alive, “the report states.
MZ’s case also came to court in 2011, but was shelved three years later. Despite the fact that in the official documents in which she appears as the biological daughter of her adoptive parents, she appears as born in a clinic in Tolosa, the judge points out to argue the closure of the case that “in the documentation of the clinic it does not appear”, in addition to the fact that neither the president nor the current medical personnel are those of the time “or that the clinic assures that there are no delivery books for the date of MZ’s birth.” But she also does not appear in the records that could have proven her delivery to her adoptive family, despite the fact that she has also tried to search these types of official documents. “You go everywhere and they tell you ‘no, no, no’. Search, I can’t search any more in more places. But I will never lose hope of being able to find. police, judges, registries, cemeteries … “, explains the woman.
A psychological suffering that can become “torture”
The research also explores how people immersed in these processes “continue to face prolonged doubts and uncertainties” in most cases for many years, causing them “psychological suffering that can reach the threshold of torture and other illnesses. deals “. “Today I can talk about him without crying. Today I can tell my story without crying. I have been going to two therapists to be able to do it. And I can be with my children well. Before I did not have family meals because it made me sad to get together with my children and that he was not there. ”
MZ has also explained “the negative impact” that has had on his family and personal life not knowing his origin and the deadlock in which he finds his search process. In fact, he has even required medication for stress and anxiety. “You think that your mother does not love you and has given you up for adoption. But then you discover that it could actually be because she was a minor, because she was forced, you could have been the daughter of a prostitute …. So once you contemplate all these possibilities, of course, that has to be digested, “he explains.
The organization regrets that the search processes “continue to fall on the families themselves and the people in search of their identity” and also urges the Government and the communities to approve measures that facilitate investigations because “whenever there is suspicion that it may If there is a case of forced disappearance, the State has the absolute obligation to investigate these crimes. ”