Terrorism and the law

Supreme Court leaves decisions on ETA terrorist releases to lower tribunals

European ruling on sentence-stretching “Parot doctrine” will be applied on a case-by-case basis

Spain's Supreme Court has decided not to establish any overriding guidelines for the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights' recent ruling on the so-called “Parot doctrine,” which has already led to the release of 11 ETA convicts.

Instead, each court will make its own interpretation on a case-by-case basis, as it hears individual appeals by convicts who feel that Strasbourg's decision could benefit them.

This means that the High Court will hear terrorism cases while provincial courts will deal with appeals by other criminals who had the legal doctrine applied to their sentences, such as serial rapists.

Last month, the European court declared unlawful the Parot doctrine, a legal system devised by the Spanish judiciary to ensure that ETA terrorists were not released significantly before the end of their terms thanks to generous reductions based on the earlier Penal Code of 1973.

Before the Parot doctrine, a terrorist convicted to 300 years would normally serve 30 (the legal maximum under the old code), but penitentiary benefits often reduced that to 18 or 20 years. This meant that people with over 20 murders to their name effectively served less than a year per victim. Since 2006, the year that Parot went into effect, the convict effectively served the 30 years because the reductions were deducted from each separate conviction, not the 30-year limit.

But that was until October 21, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of ETA convict Inés del Río, guilty of 23 murders, who claimed the Parot doctrine was illegal and that she should have been released years ago.

The European decision triggered the immediate release of Del Río and soon thereafter of 10 more ETA convicts, as well as one serial rapist who had had the Parot doctrine applied to him to prevent his early release.

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