UN blasts Spain’s repression of Basque political parties

A UN official said Feb. 5 that Spain’s Law of Political Parties violates fundamental freedoms in the name of counter-terrorism. According to Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the law criminalizes as “support of terrorism” conduct that does not relate to any kind of violent activity.

In a 26-page report based on a fact-finding mission to Spain last year, Scheinin finds that the Law of Political Parties might be interpreted to include any political party which through peaceful political means seeks similar political objectives to those pursued by the armed group ETA. The report reiterates that all limitations on the right to political participation must meet strict criteria in order to be compatible with international standards of freedom of speech.

Audiencia Nacional, incommunicado detention, torture
The Special Rapporteur also calls upon the Spanish government to consider placing terrorism cases under the jurisdiction of ordinary district courts, instead of a single central specialized court, the Audiencia Nacional, with exclusive jurisdiction over terrorist crimes. The report finds that judgments issued by the Audiencia Nacional are only subject to review by the Supreme Court.

The report also recommends the “complete eradication of the institution of incommunicado detention” and assurance of “prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigations are conducted in any case where there is reason to believe ill-treatment may have occurred.” (Euskal Herria News, Feb. 6)

See our last post on the Basque struggle.

  1. Spain defies UN
    Just days after the UN report criticizing the practice, Spain’s Supreme Court Feb. 8 barred two more parties from running in the Basque Country’s elections on grounds of supposed links to the ETA. Following a request by Spanish prosecutors, the Supreme Court barred Askatasuna and Democracy 3 Million, both left-wing Basque nationalist parties. According to the ruling, the two parties are successors to Batasuna, which was declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 2003. The election for the 75-seat Basque regional parliament is set for March 1. (EH News, Feb. 8)

  2. ETA strikes back?
    From the International Herald Tribune, Feb. 9:

    A car bomb that police suspect was planted by the Basque militant group ETA exploded Monday near a trade fair complex in northeast Madrid.

    Local news reports said no one was killed or injured and that the Red Cross had received a warning call from ETA, but police could not immediately confirm this.

    Police had located the car before it exploded, according to a police spokeswoman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity.

    If ETA was behind the bombing, it would be the first attack in Madrid by the group since a car bomb killed two people at Barajas International Airport on Dec. 30, 2007. [Actually 2006—WW4R]

    The blast on Monday came hours after the Spanish Supreme Court decided on Sunday night to bar two Basque nationalist parties from fielding candidates in local elections on March 1. Authorities consider the parties, Astakazuna and Democrazia 3 Milio, to be connected to ETA.