The National Court has suspended the opening of mass graves in the inquiry into the fate of more than 140,000 men and women who were executed during the Civil War and the years immediately following it. The country’s top criminal court ruled by 10 votes to five to stop exhumations until it can decide whether Judge Baltasar Garzon had the competence to launch the inquiry. Judge Garzon ordered the opening of 19 mass graves last month, including the gravesite of poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Garzon named Gen Francisco Franco and more than 30 members of his regime as instigators of alleged crimes against humanity, but the National Court ruled last Friday that the “activities related to the exhumation of bodies must be suspended while this court resolves questions raised by the public prosecutor regarding the competence of the judge to make this move”. The ruling followed an appeal from the public prosecutor who has said Franco-era crimes cannot be examined because of an amnesty law passed in 1977. Campaigners condemned the court’s ruling as “brutally inhumane”. Emilio Silva, head of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, said: “There are many people who are very old who have been waiting for a long time to recover their loved ones’ bones and give them a decent burial.” The United Nations Commission on Human Rights recently asked Spain to abolish the amnesty law because it contradicted international treaties.