12-19 March
Contributions to promote the peace process.
March 20th, a key day for Human Rights.

Contributions to promote the peace process.

A rain of ideas to advance in the peace process could be heard in the Social Forum celebrated last week.

The Social Forum celebrated last week in Bilbao and Iruñea (Pamplona) counted on the presence of numerous international experts in resolution processes. The forum that devolved in four sessions in each of which they took on subject related to the international experts who from their experience tried to deal with a resolution to the conflict and to try to contribute and advance towards a resolution.

The first round table took on the theme of “disarmament and decommission.” For that they counted on the presence of the director of the programs of the Foundation Berghof of Berlin, Veronique Dudoet, the member of the International Commission on Decommissioning in Northern Ireland, Aaro Suonio, and the protagonist of the South African process, Robert McBride. In their interventions they coincided in that disarming is not the first part of a process. They considered that before reaching that point the agents implicated must deal with a peace process based on dialogue and gestures. Another of the points that they wanted to remark on is that the process of decommissioning must be done in a formal and verifiable way. For this work they considered the role of international agents to be important.

In the second roundtable they dealt with the theme of “guaranteeing human rights”. In it you could hear the reflections of Christine Bell, an expert in the Irish case; Priscilla Hayner, founder of the International Centre for Transitional Justice; and Mark Freeman, a lawyer who has intervened in the resolution of diverse conflicts. In this roundtable they insisted on the importance of the respect of human rights for the process to advance, not only thinking of overcoming the violations of the past but creating the conditions so that in the future these situations don’t repeat themselves.

The following day, now in Bilbao, two other roundtables took place. The first dealt with the subject of “reintegration of prisoners and those who have fled”. You could hear the experience of the process in Northern Ireland where the two speakers came from. Kieren McEvoy, professor of Law at Queen’s University in Belfast, and Martin Snoddon, a former Irish loyalist prisoner who participated in programmes for the reintegration of ex-prisoners in their respective communities. They recalled that in Northern Ireland the parts involved were clear that without resolving the question of the prisoners they couldn’t resolve the political conflict.

The last of the roundtables dealt with “how to resolve the past”. Three experts sat at the table and shared their ideas about the subject. The South African Brandon Hamber, now a resident of Northern Ireland and a professor at the University of Ulster, the Irish professor Colm Campbell and Andy Carl, cofounder of the NGO Conciliation Resources and which has experience in diverse countries. The three coincided in that confronting the past is usually a complex and difficult task. The three contributed their ideas about how to confront the past and the story of it.

In this forum you could hear many ideas that without a doubt must help in overcoming the current situation of blockage in which the process of the Basque Country finds itself in and to advance towards a fair and lasting resolution of it. Specific proposals were heard to advance towards a resolution.

The large public present at the forum also spoke and expressed their ideas and worries. After the interventions of the experts there was an interesting exchange of ideas. One of the biggest worries that could be heard among the public was how to advance when one of the parts doesn’t show any desire. Facing this, the member of the Berghof Foundation, Veronique Dudouet affirmed that “unilateral action produces fruit at the end”. Among the public there was a wide political and social representation.

The organizers of the Social Forum to promote the peace process stated that this forum hasn’t been a first step in gathering ideas and proposals to summarize the roadmap of Aiete. With all of the ideas and contributions received in this Forum as well as through the webpage of the Social Forum they elaborated some detailed conclusions as a way of proposals that will soon be ready.

March 20th, a key day for Human Rights

On March 20th, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will analyze the appeal of the Spanish state regarding the case of Ines del Rio.

On March 20th, the Court of Strasbourg will revise the sentence about the 197/2006 Doctrine, known as the “Parot Doctrine” after the resolution in July that questioned its legality in the case of Ines del Rio.

The 197/2006 Doctrine which allows the lengthening of sentences imposed on Basque prisoners has been applied since 2006, with retroactivity and despite that it is contrary to law. Apart from Ines del Rio, this doctrine has been applied to 91 political prisoners, 72 of whom remain in prison. Many of these political prisoners have spent more than 20 years in prison, some of are an advanced age and others also suffer serious illnesses.

Basque society has repeatedly expressed their rejection to these kinds of measures, which could be seen in the massive demonstrations on November 10th in Bayonne and on January 12th in Bilbao. And it also became obvious with the motion adopted by 93 Basque city halls that demanded the abolition of the 197/2006 Doctrine. The Basque Parliament called last week on the Spanish government to “immediately release all Basque prisoners to whom the 197/2006 Doctrine has been applied”. Together with this, they demanded the repeal of all “the laws of exception against Basque prisoners.”

In Sortu, we consider that this case has a fundamental transcendence seen from the Basque Country. The decision that European courts have adopted can de facto question the penitentiary strategy of punishment that the states apply against Basque political prisoners. This is what we want and hope for, since there are no legal reasons that impede the Court from ratifying the sentence from July.

They must deactivate the current penitentiary policy. Due to the lack of will from the states we call on Basque society to mobilize, to demand steps and measures that put an end to the penitentiary policy and the violation of rights in the prisons. A first step will be the mobilizations that will take place on the 20th in dozens in towns and neighbourhoods of the Basque Country.