(This report covers the period January-December 1997)
Judicial inquiries continued into allegations of a clandestine "dirty war" waged in the 1980s against the armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (eta), Basque Homeland and Freedom. There were fresh allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers. Several law enforcement officers charged with torture were tried and sentenced. eta continued to commit human rights abuses, which included deliberate and arbitrary killings and hostage-taking.
Judicial investigations continued into acts of kidnapping, torture and murder during a "dirty war" between 1983 and 1987 against presumed eta members, waged by the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (gal), Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 and 1997). In September the Supreme Court ordered the committal for trial of a former interior minister, a former secretary of state for security and 10 others, including a former leading politician, senior officials and senior police officers, for involvement in the kidnapping by gal of Segundo Marey (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Judicial investigations also continued into the kidnapping, torture and murder by gal of two eta members, José Antonio Lasa and José Ignacio Zabala, and into the killing of a presumed eta member, Ramón Oñederra, in the 1980s.
In November the UN Committee against Torture considered Spain's third periodic report on its implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee welcomed the measures taken by the government to implement the core safeguards set out in the Convention, including the definitive abolition of the death penalty and the introduction into the new Penal Code of articles prohibiting torture and ill-treatment. However, it observed that the long delays in legal proceedings relating to torture, both at the investigation and trial stages, were "absolutely incompatible" with the promptness required by the Convention and that sentences passed by the courts on officials accused of torture were often nominal. The Committee affirmed that it continued to receive frequent allegations of torture and ill-treatment, many of which "appeared to reveal signs of racial discrimination". It also expressed concern at the way in which the continuing practice of extended incommunicado detention facilitated the practice of torture. The Committee urged the authorities to take the necessary measures to address its concerns.
In December the 23 members of the National Board of the Basque nationalist coalition party Herri Batasuna (hb), People's Unity Coalition, were each sentenced by the Supreme Court to seven years' imprisonment for "collaboration with an armed band". They were acquitted of "belonging to an armed band" and "defence of terrorism". In its ruling, the Court stated that its decision related to an incident during the 1996 general election when hb ceded its free television broadcasting time to eta by showing an eta-made video. This featured three hooded men, who were seated at a table on which they had placed their guns, as they set out eta's conditions for peace negotiations and a cease-fire. The defence lawyers presented an appeal to the Constitutional Court.
A reform of the law on conscientious objection to military service, proposed in 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997), was still under consideration by Congress at the end of the year
Allegations of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers continued to be reported. In January Iván González Polanco formally accused a municipal police officer in Badajoz of inflicting serious injuries on him after he had been arrested in connection with a traffic incident. A medical report confirmed that his nose was fractured and that the bone structure had been shifted towards the left side of his face. The police officer, who denied the charge of ill-treatment, lodged a counter-complaint against Iván González.
Allegations of torture were made by an eta member detained in connection with the killing in March of a prison psychologist in San Sebastian. Fernando Elejalde Tapia, alleged to have fired the fatal shot, was taken into custody by officers of the national police after a short chase and held under anti-terrorist legislation. Two days later he was taken to hospital semi-conscious, with a perforated eardrum, four broken vertebrae, bruising all over his body, blackened eyes and a kidney malfunction. An inquiry ordered by the Ministry of the Interior concluded that his injuries were not the result of police ill-treatment but of collision with a stationary car during the chase and of a violent struggle during arrest. A judicial inquiry into the allegations of torture was continuing.
Mamadou Kane, a Senegalese resident in Spain, alleged that in March he had been illegally detained, ill-treated and racially abused by municipal police officers at Vigo. The officers, who remain in active service, were subsequently charged with illegal detention and ill-treatment. Other cases of assault by municipal police officers in Vigo, on both African immigrants and Spanish citizens, were reported.
Naia Zuriarrain, arrested in Bilbao in April for alleged collaboration with eta, claimed that while under interrogation at Indautxu police station she was beaten repeatedly, particularly on the back of the head, and was subjected to death threats and sexual harassment. She reportedly lodged a complaint of ill-treatment with the judge of the National Criminal Court in Madrid, before whom she appeared the next day, and was released without charge
José Amado Capote Martín, a resident of Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands, lodged a judicial complaint, according to which in October he was beaten in a patrol car by four municipal police officers. He alleged that he was transferred to the custody of the national police, who took him to hospital after blood was found in his urine, and remained at the hospital for three days, 12 hours of which were spent in intensive care. The municipal police officers denied any ill-treatment occurred.
In June a Moroccan student was shot dead in Madrid by a Civil Guard reservist. Mourad El Abedine, who was walking with his girlfriend, had reportedly bent down to tie his shoelace when he was shot in the shoulder. According to a statement made by the police, the reservist opened fire with his revolver after he had been drinking. The family of Mourad El Abedine claimed that the killing was racially motivated.
Several law enforcement officers charged with torture were tried. In March a Madrid court sentenced four national police officers to three months' imprisonment for the torture of Enrique Erreguerena, who was arrested in 1982 in connection with an inquiry into eta activities. He had been beaten, plunged in a bath and given electric shocks to his penis. The officers' trial had been postponed on numerous occasions.
In November, three Civil Guards were each sentenced to four years, two months and one day's imprisonment and six years' disqualification from public office for the illegal detention and torture of eta member Kepa Urra Guridi following his arrest in 1992. Three other officers were acquitted. The Provincial Criminal Court of Vizcaya found that the three convicted officers had tortured Kepa Urra after taking him to a deserted area, but did not consider that Kepa Urra had been ill-treated at the Civil Guard barracks in Bilbao or in the hospital of Basurto (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 and 1996). The prosecuting authorities attached to the Court at once appealed against the sentence to the Supreme Court, partly on technical grounds and partly on the grounds that there was a "huge disproportion between the deed and the punishment". The lawyers defending the police officers, and the private prosecutors for Kepa Urra, also appealed to the Supreme Court
eta continued to commit human rights abuses against both security forces and civilians, and was widely believed to be responsible for 13 deaths, a significant increase on the previous year. Two eta hostages were freed. In July Cosme Delclaux Zubiria was released by eta and found tied to a tree (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Hours later José Antonio Ortega Lara was also discovered, in wretched conditions in a cell beneath an abandoned warehouse (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Days afterwards eta kidnapped and killed Miguel Ángel Blanco Garrido, a local town councillor. A further killing by eta of a town councillor, José Luis Caso, in December was widely seen as a riposte to the Supreme Court judgment on the members of the hb National Board (see above).
Amnesty International sought information on new allegations of illegal detention and ill-treatment; it urged the authorities to ensure that all such allegations were thoroughly and impartially investigated. The organization wrote to the Ombudsman, expressing concern about the fatal shooting of Mourad El Abedine and requesting confirmation that administrative and judicial inquiries had been set up to look into the circumstances of his death. The Ombudsman's office replied that inquiries were under way. Amnesty International submitted information to the UN Committee against Torture about specific cases of torture and ill-treatment. It also expressed concern at the long delays before judgments in such cases were reached and at the continuing effective impunity of law enforcement officers charged with or convicted of ill-treatment or torture
Amnesty International repeatedly condemned abuses by armed opposition groups, such as deliberate and arbitrary killings and hostage-taking, as contraventions of international humanitarian law. The organization publicly called on eta to release its hostages immediately and without conditions.
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