On January 10, 2011, the longtime separatist group ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuni (Basque Homeland and Freedom), declared a permanent ceasefire and truce with the Spanish Government. ETA, the last separatist group in the European Union, released a written statement to Spanish Media along with a video featuring three hooded guerrillas announcing their will to reject armed conflict and engage in the democratic process.
The separatist group ETA has been attacking targets in northern Spain and Southern France for over fifty years, and over this period of time more than 800 people have been killed in the struggle. ETA’s main goals are the self-determination and territoriality of the Basque region, amnesty for all Basque prisoners and exiles, and respect for the results of the democratic process in Basque Country. Once these points have been agreed to in a political agreement, ETA has claimed that they will declare a “total ceasefire.”
Although there has been news of a voluntary ceasefire by ETA for months, this declaration can be seen as the finalization of that process. There have been previous ceasefires declared by ETA however, most recently in 1998 and 2006. The latest ceasefire was broken as a result of the 2006 Madrid Barajas International Airport Bombing, which resulted in the death of two individuals. Although ETA has declared this voluntary permanent ceasefire, the Spanish Government is taking a pessimistic view. Looking to be strong on terrorism, no politician or political party wants to seem too eager to embrace ETA just yet. This can be seen as a direct result of the broken ceasefires of the past and ETA’s reluctance to completely renounce violent actions.
There is another interesting aspect to this dynamic however, which lies in the behavior of the Spanish police forces and the government’s imprisonment policies. ETA members claim that they are routinely tortured by the police forces during their imprisonment, and although this is hard to verify, standard protocol of the government is to hold alleged ETA members incommunicado and without access to the lawyer of their choice for a maximum of three days. In the 1980’s, during the “Dirty War,” many cases of torture were alleged and verified with several successful prosecutions, and Amnesty International has claimed that penalties for such actions were “unjustifiably light and lenient with co-conspirators and enablers.” More recent reports reiterate the same claims and lack of impartial punishment.