Basque terrorist organization ETA is seeking international backing as it finalizes preparations to declare its definitive end around the end of May or the beginning of June, according to sources from the radical left in the northern Spanish region. The group, which waged a decades-long campaign for independence from Spain that cost the lives of 829 people and injured hundreds more, has delegated this task to the so-called International Contact Group (GIC), which is being coordinated by South African lawyer Brian Currin, and in which the former general secretary of Interpol, Raymond Kendall, and Israeli professor and assessor in the Camp David agreements, Alberto Spektorowski, are participating.
This same group took part in the preparation of the Aiete Declaration, which was made ahead of ETA’s definitive end to terrorist actions in October 2011.
Agus Hernán, the president of a group known as Foro Social, and which is close to the Basque radical left and the GIC, has stated that the aim of the international backing is to “strengthen the credibility” of the declaration of the disappearance of ETA. The Aiete Declaration counted on the presence of the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, the ex-Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the former leader of Irish political party Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, and Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, among other figures. It was celebrated in San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa), and as such required the authorization of the Spanish government, presided at the time by Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
The exact procedure that ETA will adopt to definitively mark its disappearance is still not known, but the president of Foro Social has underlined that the terrorist group will likely use the term “demobilization,” which has been lifted from UN terminology, in order to refer to its disappearance. “In any case,” Hernán stated, “the disappearance of ETA will be definitive, clear and conclusive.”
For the Spanish government and Basque political parties it was the end of terrorist violence six years ago – and with it the disappearance of killings, extortion, street disturbances and threats – that already marked the end of ETA. Since then there have been advances in the institutional recognition of terrorism victims and progress has been made in social harmony in the region.
829 people died at the hands of ETA
That said, the government and Basque parties believe that the formal dissolution of ETA could facilitate advances in two issues: self-critical reflection on the terrorist campaign and its effects on the part of ETA and the Basque radical left, which is a key factor for the victims, and for the transfer of ETA convicts to prisons closer to the Basque Country – a key demand of the group, in the face of Madrid’s policy of scattering them in jails throughout Spanish territory.
In terms of ETA prisoners, 92% of the 230 locked up in Spain – there are another 57 in France – are classed as “first grade” convicts and as such cannot access any penitentiary benefits. Just 8% are second grade and are allowed out on parole 18 days a year. Approximately half have requested in recent months to be switched to second grade, but penitentiary authorities have denied this on the argument that the terrorist group has still not been completely dissolved.
English version by Simon Hunter.