Detained Basque could face harm if returned to Spain

As Courts in London move to consider the case of detained Basque Garikoitz Ibarlucea held by British police on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain they might like to consider the potential harm which may befall him if returned to Spain.

The British media have referred to Garikoitz Ibarlucea as a `suspected member of the Basque terrorist group ETA’ however scratch the surface and what appears to be alleged against the detained 27 year old is involvement in `a campaign of street protest’.

Spain and its police and security services has an extremely poor record in relation to abuse of detained and suspected ETA members and sympathisers can expect to be treated harshly.

The latest US State Department report produced on the country by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is extremely critical.

The report says:

“The constitution and laws prohibit such practices, and the government generally respected this prohibition; however, there were reports of police mistreatment and impunity.

“In December 2008 the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (hereinafter UN special rapporteur on human rights) called for the abolition of incommunicado detention wherein certain terrorist suspects can be held for up to 13 days prior to arraignment without the right to confer privately with the attorney of choice. In the report on his May 2008 visit, the UN special rapporteur on human rights stated that this type of detention facilitates the commission of torture and mistreatment. Between 2004 and 2007, the country’s coordinator for the prevention of torture recorded 165 complaints of mistreatment during incommunicado detention.

“The Coordinator for the Prevention of Torture (a group of Spanish human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and bar associations) reported that in 2008 there were 520 reports of torture or mistreatment, down from 720 in 2007. According to the group, 68 of the reports involved local police authorities, 59 the national Guardia Civil, 187 the national police authorities, 45 the Mossos d’Esquadra (local Catalonian authorities), 45 the Ertzaintza (Basque authorities), and 74 prison staff. The autonomous regions with the highest number of complaints were Euskadi (97), Andalucia (82), Madrid (61), and Catalonia (45). The number of reports involving the Mossos d’Esquadra decreased from 128 in 2007 to 45 in 2008. Observers attributed the decrease in part to preventative measures, such as the use of surveillance cameras in detention and interrogation rooms.”

In relation specifically to the Basques and ETA the report says:

“On February 27, a San Sebastian court moved to continue the case against 15 members of the Guardia Civil for alleged torture against ETA members Igor Portu Juanean and Martin Sarasola Yarzabal during their arrest in January 2008. The trial had not begun by year’s end.”

It also says that:

“In February 2008 a Basque Country court judge interrogated eight members of the Spanish security forces charged with mistreating an alleged ETA member arrested in January. After his arrest, the suspect spent four days in a hospital’s intensive care unit. He told the judge that the prison guards beat him. The Ministry of Interior claimed the guards used justified force to thwart an escape attempt.”

It is clear from scrutiny of the overall State Department Report that the culture of violence within police and prison services for which Spain has previously been condemned by International bodies such as the UN and Council of Europe are still endemic.

The full `country report’ on Spain from the Bureau can be accessed at the link below:

https://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136059.htm

It is clear that the detained Basque may face harm if returned unconditionally to Spain.

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