The military coup of 18 July 1936 led to a Civil War which lasted until 1 April 1939. The victorious Nationalists, led by General Franco, established a dictatorship which continued until after Franco’s death in November 1975
This virtual exhibition on the military judicial proceedings of the Civil War and the Franco Regime (which are known in Spain as sumarísimos) will show how the legal framework of the state was established within a mere ten days of the military coup. This created the system of repression of the post-war years which endured until the democratic transition of the 1970s. The exhibition will show what the different stages of these summary military trials were and identify which type of officials were involved. It will also give details of different types of sentences imposed and provide examples from original documentation. The exhibition will allow you to search through the database of IHR. Finally, the exhibition will break the silence and tell some of the hitherto little-known stories.
Summary Military Proceedings Against Women
In 1939, at the end of the Civil War, anybody who was denounced
as having been a member of a political party or a supporter of the Republic could find themselves facing a firing squad. A few insubstantial and unverified allegations related to the crime of “rebellion” could lead to the opening of summary military proceedings leading to a sentence within weeks.
This was Carme Claramunt‘s sad fate. She was the first woman to be executed by a firing squad at the Campo de la Bota in Barcelona. Claramunt, aged 41, was a single housewife who had been born in Roda de Barà in the province of Tarragona. She lived in Badalona, near Barcelona, where she worked in a shop which sold fashion accessories. Angelina Picas, who ran the shop and who was called “auntie” by Carme, was childless and wanted to leave the shop to her. Claramunt was tried on charges of having denounced and thus caused the deaths of several right-wing people during the Republic. According to the work of the historian Emili Ferrando in his book Executada, some of the accusations against her were made by the nephews and nieces of Angelina Picas, who wanted to inherit the shop.
Carme Claramunt Barot
The summary of her case includes two statements: one from the Falange and the other, written in a similar style, from the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil). There is also a summary of the indictment describing her as “Dangerous extremist. Enemy of the nationalist regime.”
According to the prison records for 1939, cited by Fernando Hernández Holgado in his doctoral thesis “La prisión militante”, Carmen Claramunt pleaded not-guilty to all of the charges and was sent to the Corts de Barcelona women’s prison on 13 March. On 27 March her case went before a consejo de guerra sumarísimo (summary military court) accused of the offence of “military rebellion.” Later the same day she was sentenced in a joint hearing along with seven other people. Along with one of the men she was sentenced to death. (For further details see case summary No 58 in the Archivo del Tribunal Militar Territorial Tercero de Barcelona).
The record contains two errors: her second surname is given as ‘Bonet’ instead of Barot and her age is given as 28 instead of 41 as stated by Ferrando.
However, executions could not be carried out without being expressly authorised by the Generalísimo from his Headquarters and this authorisation (known as an “enterado”) was not received by the prison until 17 April . Claramunt would have known her sentence but she would not have known her fate until she was informed that the death sentence was to be carried out the next morning. By then she had spent over a month in the women’s prison of Les Corts. A few hours before being executed she said goodbye to her “auntie” in a letter which Ferrando reproduces and transcribes in his book: “you already know that they are killing an innocent person (…) my only regret is to leave you but be assured that God wants this; from heaven I will ask that you will not lack anything”. Carme Claramunt was executed by firing squad at five in the morning on 18 April 1939, only five weeks after her arrest. The same month two other women came to the same sad end: Elisa Cardona, in Tarragona, on 22 April and Encarnación Llorens, in Barcelona, on 26 April. In total, 17 women were executed in Catalunya after the Civil War. We now have more information about the others.
Summary Military Proceedings Against Women
In 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia passed a law which annulled all of the sentences imposed by the military tribunals of the Franco Regime. As a result, the llista de reparació jurídica de les víctimes del franquisme was issued by the National Archive of Catalonia. It includes nearly 70,000 cases dealt with by summary military proceedings from 1937 onwards.
Analysis carried out by Innovation and Human Rights of the data on all of the women included in this list of victims of the Francoist summary judicial system allows us, for the first time, to consider the summary military proceedings from the point of view of gender.
Of the nearly 70,000 cases handled by summary military proceedings 5,502 cases were brought against women, which amounts to nearly eight per cent of the total.
The repression carried out by the military authorities by means of these summary proceedings was at its most intense immediately after the end of the Civil War: 86% of the total of 3,362 executions were carried out in 1939. Three of every four of the 5,319 women tried by the Military Authorities up to 1978 were tried during 1939. All of the seventeen women executed by firing squad on the orders of the courts were shot during 1939. Another 24 women were condemned to death; however, they were not executed.
In one case – that of Carmen Lopez Cano – three different sets of military judicial proceedings were opened in 1939. In addition there are 181 cases of women for whom two separate proceedings were opened.
In 40% of the cases, following early investigations, the women were not detained or were subsequently released; but they acquired the stigma of having been investigated and had often suffered a period of imprisonment. For the others, the most common sentence was one of imprisonment for between twelve and twenty years. The second most common sentence was of between six and twelve years imprisonment. For details follow this link.
In 1939 alone a total of 795 women were condemned to between 12 and 20 years in prison.
Minors, The Elderly and Pregnant Women
Nevertheless, during the postwar period, 6 fourteen year old girls and 5 fifteen year old girls were charged. Between 1939 and 1975, 87 girls under the age of eighteen and 466 women aged between eighteen and twenty-one were also charged. [see the data here]. Moreover, one legal minor, Eugenia Gonzalez Ramos, was even executed by firing squad at the age of twenty.
In 1939 also, one of the two youngest women to be found guilty, Encarnación Cano Cano, who was aged 16, was given a ten-year sentence. She had to wait four years for the sentence to be given because of the delays in the system.
People awaiting sentences were detained in prison. In the case of Barcelona this was in the prisión de Les Corts, which continued to function as a prison until 1955. The site of the prison is now occupied by the branch of El Corte Inglés on the Diagonal; the location is currently only marked by a sad-looking plaque.
It was in Les Corts that the other woman tried in the same summary proceedings as Carme Claramunt, namely Teresa Vila Castellví, a 57 year old widow who had been condemned to 15 years imprisonment, died two weeks after the execution of Claramunt, on 5 May 1939.
Her case, however, does not end there, and, as presodelescorts.org comments “Some idea of the efficiency of the judicial-penitential system of the regime is indicated by the fact that in 1944 her prison sentence was to be commuted from one of fifteen years to one of five, without the corresponding military court being aware of her death” which had occurred five years before. Only the archives now provide a record of such deaths of people held in prison.
The other sixteen-year old girl sentenced was Maria Angustias Mateos Fernández [see the data here], who received a five year prison-sentence in 1973. She was tried on terrorism charges along with her partner Jose Luis Pons Llobet in the same military trial as Salvador Puig Antich. Both Mateos and Pons were pardoned in 1977.
Charges were also brought against elderly women, including eleven who were over the age of 75 years [see data here]. The eldest of these was Antonia Castán Viu, who in 1938 received a sentence of 39 years imprisonment when she was already aged 79! This was later reduced to twelve years.
The five longest running military judicial proceedings were only finally closed after between 27 and 32 years. [see data here]. Finally one curiosity may be of interest: the most common first names of the women charged were as follows: Maria, Teresa, Carmen, Dolores y Josefa, in that order [data here].
The analysis of the data of all of the women included in the reparation list for the victims of the Franco Regime, drawn up by Innovation and Human Rights, enables us to analyse the outcomes of the summary military courts for the first time from the point of view of gender.
This analysis has been possible thanks to the Law to Annul the Trials of the Franco Regime of 2017 and to the fact that, following its passage, the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya published the database of the summary trials in a reusable format, which itself is the result of ten years work on the documents in the Archive of the Tribunal Militar Tercero.
A jupyter notebook produced by Innovation and Human Rights complements this investigation of the summary military trials. This provides access to the open source code and to the raw data which we have used to provide this information.
In the chart above each of the women sentenced is represented by a dot. The colours of the dots indicate the sentences which were imposed. The vertical columns indicate their ages. The most common sentence was of 12 to 20 years imprisonment while the second most common was of 6 to 12 years.
Key: pena_cat = sentence / a = yrs / m = mths
What were the summary military proceedings?
The testimonies and reports provided by la Falange – the single party of the regime, the Civil Guard and the municipal council played a decisive role in the investigations. While the investigation was carried out, those accused could be detained or imprisoned for years without knowledge of why they had been detained and without procedural guarantees such as: the legality of their detention, the presumption of innocence, equality before the law or the right to legal defence.
If the decision was made to proceed to trial, a Consejo de Guerra (military judicial tribunal) was established. In Catalonia 60,561 Consejos de Guerra were held between 1937 and 1978, according to the data [ see the data here]. In the majority of cases the Consejo adjudicated on what was called a ‘causa acumulada’ – a trial of a group of accused, whose cases at times bore no relation to each other. The defence lawyer was always a military officer – at least until 1944 – who was only given access to the summary of the case one or two days before the court proceedings.
In Catalonia the Consejos de Guerra were held in the form of a public hearing in the Gobierno Militar de Barcelona (the Military Government Headquarters). Consejos de Guerra were also held in a number of other towns including Terrassa, Manresa, Mataró and Vic. Divisional courts were also established in Girona and Tarragona, the latter of which also covered the province of Lleida.
Once the Consejo de Guerra had been held, the sentence was reported to the auditor de guerra, an officer who give his approval, and then to the juez militar permanente, another officer whose role was to implement the sentence once it had been ratified by higher military authorities. In cases where the death sentence had been passed, this was not carried out until the Captain-General of the Military Region or Franco himself had signed his approval and had sent his authorisation (which was known as “el enterado”).