TERRORISM IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY: VIOLATIONS AND PROTECTIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS

By Claire Putnam-Pite
Contributing Writer

INTRODUCTION

The conflicts between the Spanish government and Basque nationalist groups through history have had great consequences on both Basque and Spanish citizens alike. This paper will explore what terrorism is and its effects on human rights in Spain. This will be done through a detailed discussion of how the Spanish political system functions and the conflicts between Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) and Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL). By examining the players in the conflict this analysis will ask: whose rights are more important to protect: those of ETA, those of the state or those of the civilians? This essentially leads to the question of which rights are more important: individual human rights or the human rights of the group? By exploring these questions this paper discusses how the violation of these human rights has led to terrorist activity and whether or not human rights have been advanced. To better understand this conflict, this exposition will start with some historical background concerning the Basque movement.

HISTORY

Spain has a long history of both being conquered and engaging in conquests around the world. Different groups from Northern Europe ,Northern Africa and the Middle East have, at various times, claimed power in the Iberian Peninsula. Although the Iberian Peninsula has gone through huge changes in culture, religion and power through it’s history, smaller regions within the peninsula have maintained distinctive cultures through traditions and languages. The Basque Country located in northern Spain and southern France “[was] never conquered by the Romans, the Moors, the Visigoths or the Franks” (Woodworth 22). In other words, the Basques have existed with the same culture, language and heritage throughout human history and have been argued to be “western Europe’s oldest people” (Douglass 2).

In the nineteenth century the idea of nationalism began to flourish and new nation-states were formed as the great empires of Europe were dismantled. In this context, strong differences between the Basque country and Spain began to emerge with the end of the second Carlist war in 1876. At this point, the Basque Country took on the fight for its independence with the formation of the Basque National Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasca), PNV (Gascoigne). The cultural and ethnic history of the Basque people became a motivation to distinguish themselves politically from the rest of the Spanish population. At its creation the PNV distinguished Basque people based on “1. race. 2. language. 3. government and laws. 4. character and customs. 5. historical personality.” (Woodworth 26). The PNV’s emphasis on race created an immutable, historically-rooted distinction that would fuel its nationalist agenda.

From 1936 to 1975 Francisco Franco was the authoritarian head of state in Spain during which time there was great repression of Basque culture and language. José María Garmendia, a writer for El País, commented that throughout history Basque people have “considered Euskiadi (the native name for the Basque Country) to be an occupied country, [and] Francoism made that occupation real and effective” (Woodworth 33). Under Franco’s regime the Basque people had the obvious proof of foreign occupation in their nation. Violence emerged during this time in response to the oppression the Basque people were feeling. The PNV began using political violence to fight against the dictator in an attempt to remove the foreign power from the Basque country. This violent faction of the PNV broke off from the party to form the Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), ETA, to fight for national independence from the Spanish state.

After the fall of the dictatorship in 1975, a socialist constitutional monarchy was instituted. The new constitution established a decentralized government and gave autonomy to regions in Spain. Even with the new power given to the Basque Country, the violence on both sides, Spain and ETA, continued with ETA looking for complete independence from Spanish rule. The ruling Socialist Party created “an anti-terrorist group GAL (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Group) to combat ETA” in 1976 (Barros 403). This group had the ideological goal of ending terrorist action, instead the violence continued to grow through the end of the 1970s and peaking in the early 1980s.

TERRORISM

Terrorism is a complex and often taboo subject to define. Experts on terrorism differ in how they define and approach the subject. However, for this paper five definitions in particular become relevant in exploring the relationship between Spain and ETA. Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, a sociology and political science professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, argues “that terrorist organizations seeking to liberate a territory from the control of the State engages in a war of attrition with the State” in which “the party with the greater capacity to assume the costs imposed by the conflict wins” (Sánchez-Cuenca 1). Sánchez-Cuenca thus puts the two players on a more even playing field where they both have goals of fighting for what they believe to be their nation with chance of losing what they have previously gained.

Cameron Watson in his paper “Imagining ETA” argues that “terrorism, like the nation, is imagined and […] ETA lives in the minds of people” (Douglass 94). Watson theorizes that most people will never personally experience terrorism and therefore the sense that terrorist actions exist is perceived mentally. Watson reasons that terrorism is a mental tactic that allows the terrorists to instill fear and awareness of their cause.

Carlos Barros, of the Technical University of Lisbon, looks at terrorism from an economic stand point. Barros argues that “terrorists are rational individuals who attempt to maximize a shared goal” (Barros 404). Terrorists wage an economic war against the state to push it to accept the demands of the organization. Similar to Sánchez-Cuenca’s argument, Barros believes that a terrorist organization will push the state as far as it can in terms of its resources until the state gives in to demands or the organization can no longer fight. With this theory it is not the deaths or the physical damages that the organization inflicts, but costs of those injuries to the government.

Paddy Woodworth brings in yet another view, which appears quite simple: “terrorism [is] the use of violence for political ends in a situation where the essential democratic liberties – the rule of law and the freedoms of speech, association and representation – are in operation” (Woodworth 9). In this model of terrorism, the players are not as important as the setting in which they are playing for political power. In the case of ETA this is important because they view themselves as representing a nation oppressed within the powers of another nation. In this sense the “essential democratic liberties” or human rights of the Basques and more specific ETA members are being violated, and they are responding with violence to fulfill their political goals.

A problem with the term terrorism is that it is applied to a group within society fighting against the state government. It is not often used to describe the actions of the legitimate government. This is because, as Professor David Fitzgerald of the University of California, San Diego argues, the state has monopolization on the legitimate means of violence through the control of the military . Aside from the military power of the state, all other violent actions are considered illegal by definition of the state.

As this paper will show, what matters in the case of defining terrorism is who identifies the terrorists. When the state identifies terrorism, it can refer to it’s laws that all violent action is illegal and thus done by terrorists. In contrast, if a non-governmental organization is identifying terrorists, they can judge a situation separate from the laws defined by the state, and regard all forms of violence as terrorism. In this sense, the state government itself could be engaged in terrorism. Therefore continuing with Sánchez-Cuenca’s argument for terrorism as a war of attrition, it is not just one force acting against another but rather two forces fighting against one another on an equal playing field.

ETA

ETA is an extreme Basque nationalist group whose main objective is to obtain complete national independence from the Spanish state by any means necessary. In the most basic terms, the Basque Nationalists are fighting to be treated “in a spirit of brotherhood” outlined in the first article of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, Art. 1). They want to be given the same rights as other Spanish citizens, French citizens, American citizen, who all have the nationality that they feel defines them. More specifically, ETA is fighting for their “right to a nationality,” from article fifteen of the UN declaration.The Basques refute their official Spanish nationality and have created the ETA to find the protection of this universal human right to nationality. The members of ETA are not interested in autonomy, but only complete separation from Spain for the provinces declared as Basque. ETA began as a youth group of the PNV without the intention of violence. Edward Moxon-Browne describes the membership in ETA “to be typical of the population in which they lived and certainly not alienated from their communities” (Moxon-Browne 4). Being dominated by youth activists, ETA had a highly intellectual component behind the political actions.

The ETA’s ideology was heavily influenced at its inception by the Basque region’s “deeply religious culture, with a highly developed sense of commitment” (Woodworth 50). The sense of pursuing Catholic ideologies encouraged the ETA’s goals, tactics and strategies. With religious influences, terrorist actors were not afraid to die because they were instead seen as martyrs dying in the fight for national rights. Similarly, the religious affiliations gave the ETA cause more than just fighting for Basque independence. They were fighting for what they believed were their natural rights as a people with an historically rooted claim to national identity. By having Catholic morality as the roots of the movement ETA was able to gain support through the Basque country especially with people in the countryside (Woodworth 27).

Due to the antiquity of the Basque language, it was considered to be “the product of God’s intervention at the Tower of Babel”, and thus deeply linking this region of Spain with Catholicism (Hooper 231). The rights of Basques which were seen as being closely liked to Catholic morality are now defined as human rights by the United Nations. Historically, the rights the Basques feel have been violated are primarily culture and language. For example, “one of the first acts of the Francoist Military Governor of Guipúzcoa was to prohibit the public use of the Basque language in all territory under his control” (Woodworth 34). Robert Clark in The Basque Insurgents argues that, through history, groups like ETA have been motivated by the idea that “a group of people has the inherent right to be governed by rulers with the same values as their subjects, to include, among other things, language and religion” (Clark 5). These rights to cultural heritage are outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article twenty-seven “everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community” (United Nations, Art. 27). By having the idea of natural rights, whether in the form of Catholic morality or human rights, ETA has more power and motivation behind their fight in an ideological sense.

More importantly, in creating a following was the changes ETA made from its parent organization, the PNV. ETA changed the way that Basques were identified by “shifting away from the traditional emphasis on race and ethnicity as the foundation of the nation, instead making the use of the Basque language the touchstone of Basque nationality” (Woodworth 36). With ETA claiming to be representing a broader group of Basques, they were able to gain more support throughout the Basque country.

In the years following the fall of General Franco’s dictatorship, the ETA had the most active periods based on the dramatic rise in assassinations and kidnappings between 1977 and 1986 (Barros 403). This can be explained by the lack of assimilation that the Basques felt with the rest of Spain especially regarding the new constitution. In 1978 there was a referendum in Spain to approve these changes, but, as Sánchez-Cuenca explains in La España de Zapatero, it was not as well supported. Due to the lack of participation and support for the new constitution in the Basque country, the legitimacy of this law is questionable. In the Basque country, this discontent led to an expansion of ETA’s following.

Although ETA’s following grew during the late 1970’s and mid-1980’s, the members came to be viewed more as a terrorists because of the human rights violations perpetrated in the fight to protect Basque rights. Due to the murders they were committing, they were clearly violating article three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, Art. 3). People were in constant fear for their lives under ETA because it was always unknown when, where or how they would next attack. ETA attacks were not consistent in how they occurred, whether public or private. ETA often engaged targets without respect to collateral damage. On occasion this meant that they too were injured in the incident which was a violation by ETA of article twelve of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy family, home ore correspondence” (United Nations, Art. 12).

Currently, ETA has a smaller following than it once did. Election results from the early 2000’s show a strong correlation between voters that speak Basque and support for the political violence caused primarily by ETA. This is also evident in different regions of the Basque country where the native language is used more frequently (Beck 194-5). The relation between ETA violence and language follows from the ideology that ETA began with in the 1970’s and the reinforcement of Basque culture and how ‘Basqueness’ should be defined and thus protected.

SPANISH POLITICAL SYSTEM AND GAL

With the death of Franco and the fall of the dictatorship in 1975, Spain entered a new chapter in its history. The heir to the Spanish crown, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon, took the throne to establish a democratic monarchy. A democratic constitution was approved by Spanish vote in a referendum in 1978. The constitution set up a government with an executive branch headed by the monarch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. The region of Spain is divided into seventeen autonomous communities that have varying levels of power of their region and autonomy from the Spanish state.

At a brief glance, the Spanish state appears to be united under a stable decentralized governmental system. It would also seem that the government and constitution were supported by the population since they were approved by referendum, but the breakdown of the votes shows a different situation. The Basques felt oppressed by the constitution, creating a feeling of having two separate governments in the region. With this duel idea in mind, Woodworth argues that “all citizens of the Basque country, regardless of ethnic origin or political view, have a democratic right to be considered Basque, or Spanish, or both” (Woodworth 9). In this way it is clear that Basque does not imply Spanish and they refer to different nations with different governmental powers. Each of these perceived ‘nations’ has its own particularistic motivations and is fighting for particularistic rights. In this way, examining Spanish politics and government, it is important to view the two ‘nations’ as separate competing powers within a single region, where the Spanish nation currently dominates the Basque.

On the surface, The Spanish constitution protects human rights. The human rights declared as universal by the United Nations are included in the Spanish constitution in one form or another. But, systematically the Spanish constitution has the power to oppress conflicting view points and challenges to the government. Article 55 gives the Spanish government power to suspend certain human rights. The Spanish constitution essentially allows the government to determine who receives protection of human rights and who does not. Spain has the power to protect the particular rights of nation and its citizens, but this clause of the constitution gives the government the power to ignore the universal rights of citizens who are supposed threats to the state. In this way, following Spain’s definition of terrorism, regardless of conviction of a specific crime, not all Spanish citizens have the same guarantee of human rights.

The police force of a state is created to protect the security and human rights of the people it represents. The Spanish police force is called the Guardia Civil or civil guard. The police force can be found throughout Spain and ideally works in concert with the regional and local forces. Although the Guardia Civil often works to fulfill the work of the politicians, it also has the power to work independently and “undo the careful work of politicians and help once again to boost support for those who advocate violence” (Moxon-Browne 16). This duel role can be seen throughout Spanish politics in a side of the democratic success-story that is often left untold.

The first highly publicized, and arguably the most important, victim of ETA violence was Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in December, 1973. Carrero Blanco was not only vice-president under General Franco, but as Franco’s personal confidant, he was named to continue the rule after the dictator. Franco named Prince Juan Carlos to be his successor, but that Carrero Blanco was “entrusted by the dictator to keep affairs ‘tied up, and well tied up’ after his death” (Woodworth 40). His death meant that the presence Franco’s power continuing into the future was destroyed, but also was a powerful blow to the governmental strength close to the top.

The death of Carrero Blanco was seen as a threat to the safety and stability of the Spanish government. This threat led to the creation of a variety of anti-terrorist groups to form under the protection of the state in the name of Spanish security. The most powerful and thus most important of these groups, set up in 1976 by the left wing Socialist Party, was the Grupo Antiterrorista de Liberación, GAL, (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Group) (Barros 403). Although the group was not an official government organization, it was created by officials of the Spanish government, thereby lending it legitimized police authority. Despite the implications of its title, GAL was set to stop terrorism, in reality it was composed of “death squads who killed, took hostage, and illegally arrested supposed ETA members” (Beck 65). While these groups claimed to be saving Spain from terrorists, GAL not only encouraged more ETA violence by provocation, but created its own band of terrorists. Newspapers in Spain, such as El País warned that GAL was “approaching a point of no return, ‘a vendetta within society which will make the climate of civil discord and confrontation between communities definitively irreversible’” (Woodworth 111).

GAL was created with the intention of putting a stop to terrorism in the Basque country and in Spain in general. However, ultimately, the GAL’s strategies began to mimic those of the ETA terrorists. On December 14, 1983 GAL published a note in El País as a warning to ETA members indicating a commitment to violent reprisals, working against French interests and a demand for the release of Segundo Marey as a measure of good will on the part of the French government. The note clearly indicated that the GAL members were more than willing to make the same human rights violations as the ETA members and in doing so blocked the advancement of these rights in the Basque Country.

Although GAL acted as an unofficial organization, it worked as a government agency in arrests and detentions of ETA members. In doing so, Spanish citizens in the Basque country were “subjected to arbitrary arrest” by GAL members violating article nine of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, Art. 9). ETA members, as well as unassociated victims, were kidnapped and held under arrest by members of the GAL. Thus citizens, in the Basque country were insecure of their freedom, much the same way that under ETA inspired fear in the minds of non-Basque Spaniards. In other words, by violating article nine of the declaration, the GAL members are also violating article three, that declares that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person” (United Nations, Art. 3). By following many of the same tactics used by ETA, GAL was known to kidnap people from their homes and family and use torture to attempt to uncover information about the workings of ETA. In doing so, like ETA, GAL violated two more articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: article five “subjecting [ETA members] to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” and article twelve by “subjecting [ETA members] to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence [and] attacks upon his honor” (United Nations, Art. 5, 12).

As members of the official Spanish government the members of GAL had access to certain powers that were considered illegal when in the hands of ETA members. A key power was that of bearing arms (own translation/ Spain Art. 149). In this sense, the actions of GAL were considered ‘more legal’ in terms of the use of weapons than the actions of ETA. They abused their role in the government to legally obtain weapons that they then used in unofficial ways through GAL actions.

In the late 1980’s, when ETA’s concentrated violent action began to decline, GAL disbanded. Yet, while any arrested ETA members were tried and prosecuted for their actions or supposed actions, the members of GAL were not. Similar to the process used by the Spanish government for crimes of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, the members of GAL were not processed under the same system as their ETA counterparts. Only a few GAL members were imprisoned, but “continued to enjoy prison privileges available to very few people charged with such serious crimes” (Woodworth 231).

The human rights of the GAL victims continued to be violated because they were not given “an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or the law” (United Nations Art. 8). The criminals were not brought to a trial to give justice to their victims and their families. Some Spanish judges, like Baltasar Garzón, tried to investigate the crimes of GAL to bring them to justice, but this was stopped because it was seen as a threat to the security of the state. A loophole in the law was found, or created, to put the supposed security of the state over the judicial investigation of the GAL crimes. The state chose to use particular rights instead of extending the rights universally. Legal experts within Spain saw the resolution of the government in a bad light and suggested “all citizens have the right to life… except those who are victims of State terrorism; all citizens have the right to the effective protection of the judges and the courts… except those damaged by criminal acts committed with public funds” (Woodworth 231). The government hid the evidence that could be used against the members of GAL and the majority have remained free from prosecution, and thus protecting the image of birth of democracy in Spain.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

Since the mid 1990’s the situation in the Basque Country has changed dramatically. Throughout the existence of ETA, a key factor in the actions of the group has been public approval and social support (Rodríguez 346). Using Sanchez-Cuenca’s definition of terrorism, the loss of public support is not a cost that ETA is able to assume; therefore it is forced to change its strategies to maintain social support to avoid losing in the war of attrition with Spain. Since the 1980’s, support of ETA’s military action has declined as democracy has created stability and growth throughout Spain. As the Basque people have gained legitimacy with their situation in the State, they are less concerned about the future political situation of the Basque country, and do not support the need for violence to form a new nation.

ETA has significantly weakened since the mid-1990s due to other factors out of its control as well. Since the birth of democracy in Spain and the economic rise of the country, immigration has increased drastically and is focused in Madrid, Catalonia, and the Basque Country. This has meant that there has been an integration of large numbers of immigrants in the Basque Country. Rather than weakening ETA’s view of Basques defined by race as a motivation to separate from Spain, this has given them a new argument. ETA now argues that “the Basque country was subject to a unique double oppression by both capitalism and centralism” due to treatment of both immigrants and non-immigrants in the Basque country by the Spanish police force. Especially during the final years of GAL, there was no distinction made between who was attacked in the Basque, what mattered to GAL was that they were in the Basque country. ETA is able to use this distinction to define the differences between the

Basques and Spanish as territorial rather than simply racial.
In order to appeal to public support, ETA has made use of official changes in its policy by declaring ceasefires and stopping violent offensive actions. These declarations made by ETA have often been announced during times of negotiation with the Spanish government, only to be destroyed. In 2006, ETA declared a seemingly promising permanent ceasefire to engage in negotiations with the Spanish government. But the “controversial peace talks in 2006 collapsed after an ETA bomb killed two people at Madrid airport” (Basque Separatists-BBC). The collapse of the 2006 ceasefire declaration has made following declarations untrustworthy. The government changed its policy so that “it will only negotiate with ETA if it renounces violence and disarms” (Basque Separatists-BBC). This is to avoid entering into peace talks that are simply a front for ETA to regroup and rearm without the pressure of increased security measures.

In September of 2010, ETA released a video to the BBC saying “it will not carry out ‘offensive armed actions’ in its campaign for independence […and] confirms its commitment to finding a democratic solution to the conflict” (Basque Separatists-BBC). The issue with the statement was two-fold; first, ETA did not renounce violence as desired by the Spanish government for negotiations, rather it defended its past actions. Second, at the time, it was unclear as to whether ETA was entering a period of peace or not. Although not perfect, the statement of ETA did demonstrate their interest of democratic discussions and a new acceptance of the constitution. The openness in working legally under the constitution shows a new respect to the human rights it protects on both sides of the conflict.

When the declaration was declared in 2010, the promise to stop offensive violence was indeed legitimate. As of Autumn 2011 “not only [had] there not been a killing for more than two years, but businessmen [had] stopped receiving demands for a ‘revolutionary tax,’ and there [had] not been street protest by ETA supporters for several months” (Basque Group-BBC). This is indicative of a decrease of political violence on the part of ETA members in the past year since the 2010 declaration. Following the initial statement, ETA released another video to the BBC on October 20, 2011 claiming a definitive end of armed action (ETA-BBC). This announcement was a huge step for the security of the Basque country and of Spain in general.

A new generation of Basque nationalism has begun in the 21st century. This new nationalism is focused on preservation of language and culture that has defined the Basques through history. The government in the Basque Country published a survey in 2001 which “found that the number of people in the Basque country who could either speak or understand euskera had risen to fifty percent from just thirty-four percent twenty years earlier” (Hooper 247). Although, it is a new form of nationalism, it has not lost its sense of distinction from Spain which continues to support ETA’s original demand for independence with a new set of tactics. Given the evidence that violent action did not achieve their aim, by renewing the basic characteristics of being Basque, the movement can gain strength by proving their innate difference from the Spanish.

On February 27, 2012 Abertzale, the Basque leftist, nationalist political group now associated with ETA movements, expressed their “deep regret for the painful consequences caused by the armed action of ETA […] and those caused by the repressive and dirty war policies of the Spanish and French states” (Basque leftists). The group looked to essentially apologize for the human rights they had violated in the fight for their own nationalism rights. Although the human rights violations can not be undone in the past, this is an important step taken by ETA to acknowledge what happened and create dialogue to end a repetition of such violations in the future.

Opposing political groups, such as UPN and PPN, within Spain have been very critical of this apology given by Abertzale. They have argued that this statement is only addressing the violence of the past, but not making any guarantees for the future. Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón has spoken for these groups arguing that there will be “no type of intermediate satisfaction from anything that does not entail the disappearance of this disease for democracy” (ETA.-Gallardón, translated). The apology means nothing to these opposing groups without the dissolution of ETA permanently. This statement from Abertzale was made with the intention of pursuing peace talks with the governments of both Spain and France. But political groups such as the PPN in Spain believe that the declarations “have no credibility [… until] the band dissolves and lays down its arms” (UPN and PPN translated). These criticisms show that until ETA can be securely believed to be nonexistent, peace talks could be difficult.

Through Abertzale, ETA has taken an important step in moving forward and away from violating human rights. In apologizing for what happened, they took responsibility not only for their own violent actions, but also for the violent actions of GAL that they could be blamed with provoking. But the lack of trust between the two sides will continue to cause problems in conducting peace talks and political negotiations. This most recent attempt by the Basque group to show their peaceful intentions reveal the difficulties the future holds in finding methods of negotiations.

An important step toward successful peace talks is for both groups to critically examine their actions of the past and take responsibility for what happened. ETA has taken this step, but the Spanish government is far from it. The Spanish government is in systematic denial of the human rights violations that were committed by GAL by blocking the investigation and prosecution of the members. The government has also committed further human rights violations by “giving the Supreme Court the power to dissolve parties that encouraged terrorism” which caused “Batasuna, the party accused of being ETA’s political arm, was outlawed” (Hooper 250).

This policy of the Spanish government plays off the idea that terrorism depends on who is defining the terrorists. In this case, in the same way that ETA was defined as a terrorist organization by the State and GAL was not, the Spanish government is again defining terrorism as the actions of a group that are threatening national security. They are placing the particularistic rights of Spain over the human rights of its citizens. Explicitly, the government is violating article eighteen: “the right to freedom of thought […] alone or in community with others”; article nineteen: “the right to freedom of opinion and expression”; article twenty: “the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and article twenty-one: “the right to take part in the government of his country”.

CONCLUSIONS

Internal terrorism and counterterrorism are complex issues with serious consequences on human rights. Both sides are willing to sacrifice individualistic, universal human rights, such as the rights to life and security, in the fight for or protection of group-oriented particularistic human rights. In the case of the Basque country, the Basque nationalists are fighting to gain independence as a nation-state outside of the power of the Spanish state. In fighting for their right of nationality, they have been willing to sacrifice the safety of not only Spanish citizens, but also the safety of Basques. Similarly, in protecting the national interests of Spain, the GAL was willing to violate human rights that had been declared as law in the constitution of the State.

The history of this conflict shows that sacrificing individual human rights does not guarantee the protection of group rights. It is clear that the individual universal rights are fundamental and their violation undermines the entire system of human rights. The Basque nationalists have shown they are ready to move forward and away from terrorist mentalities. Instead they are furthering human rights, and negotiate in peace, whereas Spanish nationalist groups have continued to harbor distrust. The Basque political parties should not be required to prove that ETA is dissolved to participate in peace talks, just as the opposing groups such as the PPN is not required to prove GAL is no longer a threat. Once the Spanish government is willing to discuss its past human rights violations, and trust Basque nationalism, there will be the possibility of effective negotiations to avoid future conflicts. Peaceful negotiations are the only way toward advancement of universal human rights.

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Image courtesy of www_ukberri_net

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