Last Thursday 23rd October during a visit of the ICG to the Basque Country, Lokarri and Bakebidean held a press conference to announce the conclusions of the June 2014 session of the Social Forum  to promote the peace process. The Press Conference was chaired by Brian Currin, before a conference to analyze the current situation of the Peace Process.

FORSOCIALConclusions of the Social Forum to promote the peace process – June 2014

Respect for prisoners’ Human Rights and their reintegration

In May of 2013, Bake Bidea and Lokarri presented a document of recommendations to promote the peace process. One of its sections was centred on different proposals to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners in the peace process:

4. – We recommend that a consensus is found on a comprehensive solution to the issue of prisoners and people “on the run”. This is essential to building a stable and lasting coexistence. To do this, we consider it necessary to adapt the law to the new reality and implement a transitional justice that helps society to consolidate coexistence. At the same time, and as a starting point, aspects of the prison policy that contravene human rights or that go against the humanitarian treatment of prisoners must be modified, eliminating exceptional prison policy measures that oppose the international standards. In particular, the situation of those who are seriously ill, the refusal to allow the release of prisoners who have served their sentence, and the dispersion of prisoners, which punishes their families.
5. – We recommend that the process of reintegration be done through legal channels, accepting that it – being comprehensive – may take place in an individualised, staggered manner and within a reasonable timescale. This process requires that prisoners show their commitment to the new scenario of peace and renounce violent means. Furthermore, as the case may be, there should be recognition on their part of the harm done as a result of their actions.
6. – We recommend that prisoners be active agents of the process of peace and normalization. Therefore, it is important to facilitate contacts and the exchange of opinions between prisoners and Basque society and the competent institutions, in order to promote coexistence for a future in which no type of violence takes place.

In the session of the Social Forum which took place in June of this year, there were conversations about proposals to enable the development of these recommendations, counting on the contribution of people who are experts in Human Rights, social reintegration and the participation of prisoners in peace processes. Taking into account the ideas put forth, the organizing entities want to transmit the following proposals about the reintegration of prisoners:

1.- We propose separating the questions relative to the Fundamental Rights of prisoners from those of their reintegration. Their Fundamental Rights, in the measure in which they are people whose human dignity must be respected, have to be guaranteed without conditions, independently of their posture with respect to the peace process and coexistence. Meanwhile, it is convenient to clarify and agree on the conditions that allow their reintegration.

2.- In relation to their Fundamental Rights we consider that the International Treaties signed by Spain and France must be attended and respected without excuses or delays. Of their fulfilment it results that:

  • The dispersal of prisoners from their family and social surroundings must end, which would translate in their transfer to a prison of their choice in such a way that they can maintain the links that permit their reintegration. Therefore the competent authorities must approve the requests made recently to be transferred to the prison of Zaballa.
  • There must be no delay in the application of the Rights that belong to seriously ill prisoners or of a very advanced age, proceeding to their release on bail.
  • Just as the European Court of Human Rights has stated, the prisoners have a right to know the expected lenght of their sentence. Therefore, all measures tending to postpone the release of those who have effectively fulfilled their sentence must end.

3.- In relation to their reintegration, we propose a series of specific measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners:

  • Transfer to the Basque Autonomous Community and the Foral Community of Navarre the competency for prisons, to fulfil what is set out in the Gernika Statute and the Enhancement of the Foral Regime of Navarre.
  • To elaborate a plan of social integration of prisoners that counts on the consensus of the institutions and political parties and the participation of social actors. The base for this plan must be 1) that the prisoners for their relation, real or not, to ETA, be treated in the same conditions as any other prisoner, 2) that the current situation on which Basque society is moving forward from a situation of violence and confrontation to another of peace and coexistence is taken into count, 3) that the plan is respectful of the right of victims to memory and recognition,4) that it counts with the prisoners’ participation and 5) that it is accompanied by an undeniable commitment from the prisoners for a coexistence in peace and which is respectful with the differences and pluralism.

4.- In relation to the contribution of the prisoners to coexistence and the peace process, we consider that:

  • It is necessary to facilitate the constructive participation of the prisoners in the peace process. For that it would be helpful to eliminate the restrictions so that they can have dialogue and work among themselves as well as with their lawyers and mediators and the whole of the citizenry through their representatives and social actors.
  • One of the main contributions of prisoners to coexistence consists in a clear commitment to the peace process and coexistence, renouncing violent means and sincerely recognizing the caused damage.