Sunday, April 23, 2006


The following report is from an associate in Northern Ireland. It highlights the state of human rights in the Basque Country. It also speaks of the harassment of a visiting group who were on a speaking tour of the area. Some of the visitors spoke on parallels between the Basque struggle and that of the Irish.

For Immediate Release: 23/04/2006
Human rights abuses highlighted in Basque Country

Ballymoney Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay has just completed a speaking tour of the Basque Country. The Rasharkin man, who was there representing Ógra Shinn Féin, was to be accompanied by a member of the South African ANC but they were refused access to the region by the Spanish Government. Journalists who were to interview the Sinn Féin man were also subject to harassment from the Spanish authorities. On Friday Cllr McKay gave the opening address - in Basque - at the Basque Topagunea Festival, the first big festival since the ETA Ceasefire and which was attended by over 20,000 people.

Speaking on his return Cllr McKay said:

" The week's events were a very useful insight into the current situation in the Basque region and it is quite clear that Spanish State Torture, which has been highlighted by both the UN and Amnesty International, is still continuing unabated.

“The trip was also a very useful insight into the Basque Youth Movement, which is without doubt, one of the best organised and vibrant youth movements in Europe. The Topagunea Festival, which was held in Etxarri at the weekend, is organised entirely by young people involved in the Basque Youth Movement and is testament to the resilience of young people here who are continually the subject of state harassment and sometimes torture.

“We have been speaking to some young people who have been imprisoned for years without trial, effectively Spanish Internment, and who have also been victim to the Spanish and French Prisoner ‘dispersal’ policy.

“This is when the Governments concerned remove Basque Prisoners from their local areas and place them in prisons as far away from the Basque Country as possible. The result of this is that Prisoners’ relatives have to trek up to and over 1,000km to see their loved ones and this can often involve days on buses at great expense to low-income families. It has also involved in deaths on the roads, one prisoner who we were talking to spoke of how his mother died from sheer exhaustion and obviously stress whilst on the long journey to see her son.”

Cllr McKay also spoke about the Irish Peace Process and drew parallels between both the Basque and Irish conflicts,

"We are keen to see this peace process work and key to this is the lifting of the Spanish ban on Basque political parties, youth groups, trade unions, language groups and newspapers.

"One of the things I highlighted to Basque audiences this week was that a successful peace process relies on positive moves on all sides. In that regard it is clear that the onus is now on the Spanish and French Governments to move this process forward.

"There is also an onus on the International community, and in particular the International media to start covering the human rights abuses that are occurring in this so-called Western democracy, as their efforts to do this have thus far been non-existent."

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