“ETA, the Basque socialist revolutionary organization for national liberation, hereby informs the Basque people that, following the ratification by its members of the proposal to conclude this Organization’s historical cycle and function, its journey has ended.”
With this opening sentence, the Basque terrorist group has officially announced its disbandment in an audio message read by historic ETA leader Josu Urrutikoetxea, better known by his alias “Josu Ternera.” The message was delivered to the BBC in three different languages, including English. Ternera’s whereabouts are currently unknown and he is still sought by the Spanish authorities.
In the message, ETA states that it has “completely dismantled “all of its structures,” and “has put an end to all its political activity. It will no longer express political positions, promote initiatives or interact with other actors,” adds the message. “Former members of ETA will continue the struggle for a reunited, independent, socialist, Basque-speaking and non patriarchal Basque Country wherever they see fit, with the sense of responsibility and honesty they have always demonstrated.”
The final statement had been approved by international mediators. Members of the Henri Dunant Foundation, a Swiss organization based in Geneva and specializing in conflict resolution, have certified the authenticity of the communique.
The statement serves to mark the end of the 59 years of existence of the terrorist organization, which killed more than 800 people and injured thousands more during its violent campaign for independence for the Basque Country. It was also behind kidnappings, acts of sabotage, threats and extortion.
The group’s insistence on intervening in the future of its prisoners – many of whom are being held in jails outside the Basque Country, thus making it difficult for families to visit them – has dragged out the nominal existence of ETA that it embarked upon in 2011, when it ceased its violent campaign. ETA was to all intents and purposes defeated by that year without having achieved any of its objectives, and now will disappear as an organization without having reached any kind of deal for its prisoners.
The “final statement from ETA to the Basque Country” is 378 words long, a similar length to the statement it released in October 2011 in which it decreed the “definitive end” of its armed campaign.
The statement does not specifically include the word “dissolution,” although the final part of the text states: “We have made this, our last decision, in order to foster a new historical phase. ETA was born from the people and now it dissolves back into the people.”
The statement makes no mention of the victims it caused in its nearly six decades of existence. In mid-April, the group released another statement in which it apologized to just some of its victims: the “citizens who had no responsibility in the conflict.”
Speaking before the statement was released, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), stated that “ETA has been defeated due to the strength of the rule of law and Spanish democracy. Whatever it does it will not find impunity for its crimes, it didn’t achieve anything with killing and nor will it do so with propaganda. The government is with the law, the state security forces and the victims.”
This morning the spokesperson for the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in the regional parliament, Joseba Egibar, said that the disappearance of ETA was not down to an “ethical” reflection by its members, but rather the fact that Sortu – a Basque socialist party formed in 2011, which openly rejects any kind of violence – “determined” the end due to reasons of “political expediency.” What’s more, he condemned the fact that as well as violating human rights, the group had “damaged” Basque politics.
The head of the Basque branch of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Alfonso Alonso, said that he hoped that ETA “would go away once and for all and leave us in peace,” and that it should be “ashamed of everything it has done.” He added: “In the end they didn’t achieve anything, nor will they ever achieve anything.”
The statement comes a day before an international summit to be held in the French Basque Country, in Cambo-les-Bains, near Bayonne, with the aim of “certifying” the definitive end of ETA as an organization. The meeting will count on the intervention of, among others, South African lawyer Brian Currin, who is the leader of the so-called International Contact Group (GIC), a body formed in 2010 with the aim of “expediting, facilitating and enabling the achievement of political normalization in the Basque Country.” Also present will be members of the International Verification Committee (IVC), which was created in 2011 to verify ETA’s declaration of a definitive end to its violent campaign.
After the conference, which is expected to last an hour, figures from the international community will read a statement that will mark the closure of the meeting.
No representatives from the Basque or Navarre regional governments will be present. There will, however, be members of the principal Basque parties, such as veteran of the Basque abertzale radical left, Arnaldo Otegi, and a member of the Basque branch of left-wing anti-austerity group Podemos. No representatives from the Basque Socialists, PP or emerging center-right party Ciudadanos will be in attendance.
English version by Simon Hunter.