Spain Releases ETA Prisoners Following European Court of Human Rights Ruling

Spain’s release of nine members of the separatist paramilitary group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna this month could symbolize social progress in the country, rather than renewed violence. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Parot doctrine could not be applied to prisoners retroactively.  The doctrine, which was made into law in 2006, allows prison sentences to be extended for convicted terrorists.

The ECHR ruled against the application of the Parot doctrine to Ines de Rio Prada, the first prisoner to be released in late October, because at the time of her sentencing in 1987, the doctrine had not been written into law.  The court’s argument in Prada’s case also applied to the cases of the nine other ETA prisoners released Nov. 8.

Spanish courts are expected to released 43 more ETA prisoners, most of whom are convicted of multiple murders.

Spain’s compliance to these rulings sparked a protest led by the supporters of the Association of the Victims of Terrorism in Madrid on October 27.  AVT counsellors have experienced an increase in demand for services to help citizens cope with resurfacing depression and fear. Thousands of protesters demanded that the Spanish government refuse to cede to the ECHR.

There is serious concern that the release of a high number of ETA prisoners could lead to renewed violence.

Others believe that the release of the prisoners could advance the peace process and strengthen the current ceasefire. The mass demonstrations a few weeks ago in favor of the ETA prisoners also indicate that perhaps the respect for human rights is now the priority rather than revenge on the ETA.

Amidst the protests, it is important to note that the release of the prisoners was not a national decision but was imposed by a supranational entity. The People’s Party government is worried that the ECHR ruling has impacted its image in the fight against terrorism. However, those connected to the ETA and the Basque region seem to be most cognizant of this fact, therefore making it  difficult for some to consider the ruling a gesture of good faith.

Listed as a terrorist group in the United States and Europe, the ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in a violent four-decade campaign for an independent Basque country. The group’s violence has been denounced not only by the central government, but also by Basque citizens themselves. According to the Euskabarometre, a Basque region statistical survey, 87% of the population in the region agreed that violence was unnecessary to achieve their political aspirations. The findings of the survey indicate that the release of ETA prisoners may not necessarily spark more terrorist activism in Spain and could be seen as evidence that the ETA has truly abandoned its violent tactics. While it is important to remember the collective suffering of a nation, Spain’s decision to accept the ECHR ruling may very well be a blessing in disguise.

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  1. […] Spain’s release of nine members of the separatist paramilitary group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna this month could symbolize social progress in the country, rather than renewed violence. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Parot doctrine could not be applied to prisoners retroactively. The doctrine, which was made into law in 2006, allows prison sentences to be extended for convicted terrorists. Read more about the release of 9 ETA activists. […]

  2. […] of terrorist groups advocating the secession of their state. In Spain, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) occupies itself with the secession of the Pais Vasco, while IRA does the same for Northern […]

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