The Constitutional Court reopened the Basque Government window at the end of September to repair victims of police abuses between 1978 and 1999, by rejecting the last resort of Citizens to the regional law on this matter. Following the Constitutional endorsement of the new rule, the Basque Executive has received more than 300 requests from people asking to be recognized as victims of abuse. The Deputy Minister for Human Rights, Memory and Cooperation, the historian José Antonio Rodríguez Ranz, will begin to sign the first resolutions in the first quarter of 2021.
“The police abuses were part of the Franco regime and continued in many cases during the Transition,” says Josu Ibargutxi, the spokesman for the Basque platform against the crimes of the Franco regime. “And I’m not saying it; in case there were doubts, he showed it [el antropólogo forense] Paco Etxeberria in his report on torture in December 2017, when he documented 4,113 cases ”that affected 3,415 people between 1960 and 2014.
The Law on Recognition and Reparation of Victims of Human Rights Violations in the Context of Politically Motivated Violence in the Basque Country between 1978 and 1999, —the full name of the norm— was approved in the Basque Parliament in 2016 thanks to the votes favorable of the PNV and the PSE and the abstention of EH Bildu. This law gives continuity to the 2012 decree of the Government of the socialist Patxi López that covered the victims of police violence between 1960 and 1978. It was appealed first by the Government of Mariano Rajoy, and later – when the Socialist Executive of Pedro Sánchez withdrew the resource— by Citizens.
The Constitutional Court legalized the claims window on understanding that the evaluation commission in charge of recognizing the victims “is not going to carry out charges” against third parties. The PNV modified the articles of the law to clarify that the objective was not to purge the responsibilities of the police, but to compensate the victims.
“The Basque Government recognized me as a victim of mistreatment in the first regulation,” says Juan María Zulaika, one of the worker priests who between 1968 and 1977 occupied the Zamora prison, where priests who fought against Franco were going to stop . It does not share the “splitting of history” that Basque regulations make, but it believes that the endorsement of the Constitutional Court is important. For him, it makes it possible to make visible a part of the recent memory “that has been covered up”, and that he believes that “it begins to air now, when the 50th anniversary of the Burgos Process is being celebrated”, in which the murder of the commissioner was judged Francoist Melitón Manzanas, one of the first crimes of ETA.
“A plaque should be placed in the Intxaurrondo barracks in San Sebastián and La Salve in Bilbao because many people were tortured and mistreated there,” claims Zulaika, who proposes to integrate them into the urban maps of Historical Memory.
The Basque unions also welcomed the endorsement of the Constitutional Court. In a joint statement, in November they encouraged their militants to avail themselves of the law in the event that they had been victims of this type of abuse. “To argue that this regulation blanks ETA is absurd. It is the payment of a debt to those who fought against Franco ”, Ibargutxi defends.
The profile of applicants is very varied. Sources from the Directorate of Victims and Human Rights of the Basque Government explain that many plaintiffs were attacked when they were in demonstrations, or at police checkpoints, where the use of force and weapons led to death or serious injuries. “In other cases, such as those involving torture, the intent of the arrests was clear”, but also “in many cases analyzed, the victims did not have any kind of militancy.” And if they did, it was as varied as the Revolutionary Workers’ Organization, the PCE, the PNV, the PSE, the Workers’ Commissions, the UGT, the Workers’ Trade Union, Catholic Action, the Vanguardia Obrera Juvenil, and also ETA.
4,113 documented cases in 54 years
In the report directed by the forensic specialist Paco Etxeberria with researchers from the University of the Basque Country, 4,113 cases of mistreatment between 1960 and 2014 are documented. Of 1,792 members of the Civil Guard, 1,786 of the National Police and 336 of the Ertzaintza are responsible. There are 20 sentences ratified by the Supreme Court of torture and ill-treatment of 31 victims, with 49 convicted, 21 of them from the National Police Corps and 28 from the Civil Guard. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Spain seven times for failing to diligently investigate allegations of torture.
Of the total number of victims recognized in the first decree, 16% corresponded to deaths by State security forces, especially in demonstrations, roadblocks or altercations. 29.5% of the cases were people injured by a firearm. All were recognized as victims, and 61% were compensated.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.