Since 2009 the Basque political scenario has undergone very important changes. After 3 failed Peace Processes (Algiers 1989, Lizarra-Garazi 1998 and 2006-2007) The Basque Abertzale Left decided to set up a unilateral process and undertook, with broad sectors of Basque Society, a new effort for peace. One of the main milestones for that process was the International Conference to Promote the Resolution of the Conflict in the Basque Country (Aiete).
As a consequence of the long conflict, over 470 Basque Citizens are held in Spanish and French prisons. During the Confrontation period, this collective suffered a number of exceptional measures, including automatic rejections of parole, dispersion, difficulties to get medical treatment and legal assistance. They are also subjected to communication limitations and have been isolated.
On the current scenario (End of ETA’s armed campaign, legalisation of political parties…) Basque society has clearly demonstrated its support for a change in prison policy through massive demonstrations, the biggest demonstration in the history of the Basque Country was held in Bilbao on the 11th January 2014. The official opinion poll of the Basque University (EuskoBarometro – November 2012) has established that 75% of Basque Citizens are for the repatriation of prisoners.
However, Spanish and French governments haven’t changed their position on their own. The Spanish Judiciary has complied with a ECHR – Grand Chamber ruling ordering the release of over 50 Basque prisoners, whom had been kept in prison through the artificial lengthening of their sentences. But meanwhile the Spanish Authorities have maintained and even worsened the exceptional measures against the rest of prisoners. Their situation raises three main concerns at this moment. (1) The policy of dispersion (keeping prisoners dispersed and as far as possible form their places of origin). (2) The refusal to release seriously ill prisoners. And (3) the incarceration of people condemned for belonging to political organisations and the ongoing legal processes against them.
Basque political prisoners constitute the EPPK the Collective of Basque Political prisoners, which includes all the prisoners related to the political conflict who decide to become members and respect the collective decisions of the group. The EPPK has shown a clear commitment with the ongoing process and has taken unilateral steps to overcome the situation of prisoners.
On the runs:
During this period an unknown number of Basque Citizens has been forced to flee their homes in relation with the political conflict.
Those individuals conformed the EIPK, Collective of Basque Political Exiles, which includes suspected ETA activists, political or trade union activists and non-committed individuals that were forced to flee their homes to avoid arrest by authorities. Most of them did so to avoid the risk of being tortured while under incommunicado detention.
After their flight they faced different situations, some of them faced no official arrest warrant, but suspected they were still wanted; some others faced arrest warrants and won their extradition cases; some other still live in their guest countries under false identities.
The EIPK gathers them and raises their situation with different civil society organizations and political parties. The EIPK is the result of a number of previous organisations including Anai Artea founded in 1968, or the Support committees, created in 1984, to denounce the extradition and deportation of refugees (France automatically granted the Refugee status to Basques on the run until 1977).
This collective holds a strong commitment for the process, which they have reafirmed on a number of ocassions:
- In June 12th 2013 the EIPK held a public press conference in Bayonne, France, and announced that 14 of its members would from then on act as representatives for the collective. Their representatives were: Tomás Linaza, (Cape Verde), Alfonso Etxegarai (Sao Tomé), Raquel García (Brussels), Josu Lariz (Uruguay), Josu Abrisketa ‘Txutxo'(Cuba) adnd Eloy Uriarte, Lourdes Mendinueta, Jokin Aranalde, Jon Irazola, Oxel Azkarate, Jon Garmendia, Xabier Miguel Ezkerra, Xabier Arin and Idoia Espías in France.
- Days later, on June 15th 2013, the EIPK held a massive event in Biarritz, France, to announce their commitment to the peace process and announce a roadmap for their own contribution to the process.
- In March 22, 2014 the EIPK held a new public press-conference to announce that, as part of their roadmap, a number of their members would start to cross the border into Spain.