Some notes on Franco’s military justice system, the consejos de guerra sumarísimos

Until 1964 Franco’s political prisoners were dealt with by special military courts, ‘consejos de guerra’. The most active of these was the ‘Special Tribunal for the Represion of Freemasonry and Communism’ (Tribunal Especial para la Represión de la Masonería y el Comunismo) established on 1 March 1940. Between that date and 1953, the Tribunal heard 27,085 cases and passed sentence on 8,918 prisoners in 940 secret trials. According to the Army Board (Alto Estado Mayor) sentencing figures for 1954 were 1,266; 1955, 902; 1957, 723; 1958, 717. Its victims included those arrested in the reviving labour movement and the industrial unrest of the 1950s, including the strikes of 1951, ’53, ’57-’58, and of course the wave of student activism of 1956. According to the official figures issued by the Ministry of Justice for 1959 there were 14,957 prisoners in the regime’s jails. Of these 816 were sentenced for crimes against state security and 385 for ‘Banditry and Terrorism”. At the same time, New York Times reporter Bernjamin Welles reported that these figures didn’t include 35 women, 15 freemasons and 470 other individuals convicted of ‘common law’ crimes, but who were, in fact, political prisoners, making a total of 1,721 political prisoners held by the regime.*

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