efe-epaBuenos Aires

Dario Rivas, the Spanish Civil War exile who successfully prodded Argentine prosecutors to investigate the crimes of the 1939-1975 regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, has died in Buenos Aires, his attorney told EFE Tuesday. He was 99.

In a complaint filed in 2010, Rivas and two other plaintiffs urged that "the crimes committed by the members of the Franco dictatorship be investigated, those responsible be identified and they be criminally punished."

The three pioneers who launched the process with their signatures later received the support of more than 100 Spanish associations and the protection of international legislation passed by the United Nations regarding universal jurisdiction, which holds that courts in any country may act in instances of offenses deemed crimes against humanity.

In 1998, a then-member of Spain's National Court, Baltasar Garzon, cited both universal jurisdiction and the fact that Spanish nationals were among the victims when he indicted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity.

Rivas was, like a large number of the plaintiffs, the victim of a dictatorship that murdered his father, the mayor of a small town in the northwestern region of Galicia, just as the 1936-1939 civil war began.

In 2005, he was able to exhume the remains of his father, Severino Rivas, from the common grave in which he had been buried, according to Spain's Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH).

Despite what he achieved, Rivas continued with his campaign and five years after finding his father's remains he took his cause to Argentina, where he had resided since he was 9 and where he received the support of attorneys and jurists such as federal Judge Maria Servini de Cubria.

The judge asked Spain for the names and addresses of the members of the Council of Ministers and the commanders of the security forces within the Franco dictatorship, as well as for information about the number of disappeared, murdered and tortured people, according to the ARMH.

On the basis of those figures, in 2014 Servini de Cubria ordered the arrest of 20 people indicted for crimes committed during the Franco period, some of them corporate executives or high-ranking police officers.

The complaint that led to the Argentine court's investigation covers a period between July 1936, when Franco led a military uprising against the elected government, and July 1977, when Spain held its first democratic elections following the dictator's death.