WORK has begun to exhume the bodies of victims from the Spanish Civil War.

Experts arrived on Monday at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caidos) – a vast mausoleum outside of Madrid, where the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco were buried some 40 years ago.

It comes after a six year legal battle was launched by relatives of four victims, from both sides of the war, in a bid to give them a dignified burial with a ceremony.

Some 500,000 soldiers and civilians were killed during the brutal war, which still haunts Spain almost 80 years later. 

Their bodies were scattered across Spain in mass graves, without the families’ consent or knowledge.

In March 2016 a court finally granted permission but since starting work this week, experts have expressed concerns about exhuming the bodies as they have not been well preserved or separated.

Built under Franco’s regime between 1940 to 1958, the Valley of the Fallen holds the remains of over 30,000 people from both sides of the civil war.

The mausoleum was partly built by Republican political prisoners.

It has faced huge criticism as it is the only remaining monument dedicated to a fascist leader in Europe.

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