European court clips ETA's political wing

The European Human Rights Court has confirmed the ban of Batasuna,the political wing of the terrorist group ETA. Spanish dailies are rather happy about this decision, which puts a spanner in the works of radical Basque nationalism. The Basque press, on the other hand, is more measured.

Published on 2 July 2009 at 17:05
Guernica (Spanish Basque Country), graffiti supporting Batasuna. Photo from Chisno.

On 30 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a ban on the Basque nationalist political party Batasuna, which was outlawed in 2003. The court in Strasbourg took the view that the disbanding of the party, which is considered to be the political arm of the terrorist organization ETA, was a response "to a pressing social need," because Batasuna's values "contradicted the concept of 'a democratic society' and presented a major danger to Spain's democracy."

In its editorial, El País describes the ruling as "the end of the road for Batasuna," and further remarks that "the Strasbourg court has dispelled any doubts on the outlawing of the ‘abertzale’ [patriot] party." For the centre-left Madrid daily, the outcome of the case has not only "buried any hope for the group, but also sent a strong message to certain nationalist movements who were eager to see the European authority overturn a decision of the Spanish courts, and condemn the Spanish state for violating fundamental political rights." The descision is also "a severe blow for the PNV" Basque nationalist party, which recently lost control of the Basque Autonomous Community parliament.

On the right, El Mundo refers to the decision as "a legal boomerang" which has delivered a "devastating blow to Batasuna," noting that the proceedings in the ECHR had been initiated by the outlawed party. The daily goes on to congratulate the court for citing "the maintenance of public safety, the prevention of disorder, and the protection of rights and freedoms," as reasons for the decision. The upholding of the ban "has denied a platform to the separatist left and the PNV" and "provided a judicial safeguard that will exclude anyone in favour of ETA violence from democratic institutions," adds El Mundo.

In the Basque press, the response is more measured. El Correo emphasizes the fact that "the decision was reached by an institution above suspicion," while the front page of the staunchly nationalistDeia, deplores the fact that "the centre-right popular People's Party and the socialists will use the decision as ammunition against critics of the 2002 Political Parties Law," first and foremost the Basque nationalist PNV.

It is a view that is shared by Gara, which solemnly declares that "at a European level, the ruling of the Strasbourg court should be a cause for concern among all those who want political change to ensure greater freedom, universal human rights, solidarity between peoples and the development of democracy." For the separatist daily, the court's decision "is evidence of a dangerous tendency that could undermine basic rights and freedoms in Europe."

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