Doing Therapeutic Justice for the families of the Disappeared: Exhumations as Justice in Spain

Ms Natalia Maystorovich-Chulio1
1The University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Forensic exhumations are more generally associated with criminal prosecutions seeking to attribute individualised or collective group for the sequestration, torture and killing of civilians. Spain is distinct as often there is no criminal investigation associated with the location of the disappeared. The exhumation of clandestine graves serves wider humanitarian goals after more than 80 years since the original crime was committed. Due to a policy of impunity and the statute of limitations for murder expired criminal investigations are not possible, despite the continuous nature of enforced disappearance. However, the privatised exhumations offer the relatives a therapeutic form of justice. It has allowed for public and open exhumation sites whereby the families can collaborate as they see fit in the recuperation of their dead. The open nature of exhumations permits communities to come together and contribute to the revision of collective memory in the recognition of the atrocities committed in the recent past. This offers those present access to truth as forensic specialists corroborate scientific findings with testimony and information of what happened to these victims of enforced disappearance. This counter-narrative offers survivors with recognition for the crimes committed against them and their families as well as the states failure in meeting with its obligations under international and domestic law.


Natalia Majstorovic-Chulio is a PhD student and casual academic with the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at The University of Sydney. She is interested in human rights and humanitarian law; transitional justice; amnesty laws, trauma and healing in post conflict societies; archaeological recovery of mass graves; capacity of social movements to enact change; etc.  She has been in cooperation with the Association for the Recovery of Historic Memory (ARMH) in Spain since 2012.

Her focus is on social research and methods in an attempt to merge my political and social interests with a scholarship, which might enact social change.  In this regard ethnographic and interview methods are particularly useful in developing greater understandings of the social world.



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