Judicial inquiries continued into the "dirty war" of the 1980s, waged against the Basque armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Basque Homeland and Freedom, by the Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL), Anti-terrorist Liberation Groups. Two former senior government officials were among those convicted and imprisoned after the first trial relating to GAL crimes. There were new reports of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement and prison officers. Law enforcement officers charged with torture were tried and sentenced, often after lengthy delays; sentences were frequently nominal. ETA continued to commit human rights abuses, including deliberate killings of political representatives, before declaring an indefinite cease-fire.

In March the Disciplinary Committee of the Consejo General del Poder Judicial (CGPJ), the governing body of the judiciary, agreed that about 40 specific complaints of ill-treatment of prisoners between 1996 and 1997, many of which had been closed, should be examined by its inspection service to determine whether the judges involved in the relevant inquiries had performed their tasks competently. The complaints were submitted to the CGPJ by prisoners' relatives and a number of non-governmental organizations in Spain.

In May, in his annual report to parliament, the Ombudsman criticized the prison department for failing to take sufficiently rigorous disciplinary measures against prison officers under investigation in some cases where prisoners had died or been ill-treated.

In May the UN Committee against Torture found that in the case of Encarnación Blanco Abad, the Spanish authorities had violated the internationally recognized right of an individual to a prompt and impartial investigation where there were reasonable grounds to believe that an act of torture had been committed, or where the individual had alleged torture. Encarnación Blanco, whose allegations of torture by the Civil Guards in 1992 had been rejected as unfounded by Spanish courts, had exhausted all internal judicial remedies by 1996. The Committee found that evidence in a number of medical reports should have been deemed sufficient to open a prompt inquiry, and that the failure to examine the officers of the Civil Guards reportedly involved, as well as the failure to hear other witnesses, showed lack of diligence.

In June parliament gave final approval to a law reforming legislation in force since 1985 on conscientious objection to military service and alternative civilian service. However, the new law, like the previous legislation, made no provision for conscientious objection developed during military service. Since 1985 over a dozen conscripts have been imprisoned for their refusal to complete military service on grounds of conscience, developed after joining the armed forces.

In September ETA declared an indefinite cease-fire. This unprecedented action followed the signing of the Declaration of Lizarra by 23 Basque and other political parties, trades unions and organizations. The Declaration resolved to open unlimited dialogue to resolve the "Basque conflict" so long as no acts of violence were committed.

In October Chile's former Head of State, Augusto Pinochet, was arrested in London, the United Kingdom (UK), on the basis of a commission rogatory filed by a National Court judge in Madrid on charges of attempted murder, torture, conspiracy to torture, hostage-taking and conspiracy to take hostages. In his committal for trial order, the National Court judge listed 16 Spanish citizens among the thousands of people who "disappeared" or were tortured or killed when General Pinochet was Head of State (see Chile and UK entries).

The first trial in connection with crimes committed by GAL in the 1980s opened in May before the Supreme Court. In July former Interior Minister José Barrionuevo and former Secretary of State Security Rafael Vera were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for illegal detention and misappropriation of public funds in connection with the kidnapping of French businessman Segundo Marey who, in 1983, had been held hostage for 10 days. According to medical reports, Segundo Marey was still suffering severely from the mental effects of the kidnapping. Ten other defendants, including the former civil governor of Vizcaya and a number of senior police officers, were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 10 years to two years, four months and one day. In December, however, on the recommendation of the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court, the Council of Ministers granted 10 of the 12 convicted, including José Barrionuevo and Rafael Vera, a partial pardon of two thirds of their sentences. The remaining parts of the sentences were subsequently suspended by the Constitutional Court pending consideration of their appeals to the court. The prisoners were released, but remained barred from public office.

Judicial inquiries 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.

There were new claims by suspected ETA members or supporters that they had been tortured during incommunicado detention. The allegations made consistent references to the practice of partial asphyxiation with plastic bags, known as "la bolsa". David Gramont, arrested near Seville in March by national police and handed over to the Civil Guards, alleged that his head had been pushed repeatedly into a bath of water, a torture method known as "la bañera".

José Ignacio Armendariz Izaguirre alleged that he was tortured by Civil Guards after arrest in Pamplona in March and while being held incommunicado in Madrid. He said a plastic bag was placed over his head and that he was repeatedly beaten on the head and body and forced to repeatedly bend up and down. On arrival in Madrid he was taken to see a doctor, who ordered X-rays, blood tests and treatment for his knees. However, José Ignacio Armendariz Izaguirre alleged that when returned to his cell, blindfolded and manacled, he was beaten on the head, body and testicles, hooded and partially asphyxiated by insertion of fingers in his nose and mouth.

Maite Pedrosa Barrenetxea, arrested in March, alleged that she was raped at the Civil Guard headquarters in Madrid and that Civil Guards placed fingers, hands and a cold object, which they said was a pistol, in her anus and vagina. Cristina Gete, arrested in May, alleged that she was beaten, partially asphyxiated with a hood, sexually humiliated, fondled and threatened with rape. All the above-mentioned victims lodged judicial complaints.

Racially motivated assaults by law enforcement officers, including police officers of the autonomous regions, were also reported. Moroccan national Driss Zraidi lodged a judicial complaint stating that he had been assaulted in August by two officers of the Catalonian autonomous police force, the Mossos de Esquadra, in San Pedro Pescador. Driss Zraidi alleged that after he had been asked for his papers, he was pushed against a wall and beaten. One of his teeth was broken, his glasses were smashed, and his gold chain was seized and deliberately pulled apart. At the police station he was repeatedly beaten, trampled on and racially abused. Four of his ribs were broken and, after his release, he needed hospital treatment for 10 days. Eight officers were reportedly charged with involvement in the assault and were suspended from duty.

There were also reports about systematic beatings and prolonged isolation, in some cases for up to three years, in certain high security prison sections under a special regime for surveillance of detainees known as fies. The regime was set up in 1991 by government circular and incorporated in the penitentiary regulations in 1996. Several prisoner support organizations alleged that many prisoners were frightened to make complaints about ill-treatment or that, if they did, these were filed, while prison officers often made counter-complaints that were pursued through the courts.

A number of trials relating to ill-treatment and torture took place, some of which highlighted lengthy delays and effective impunity. In January the trial opened in Bilbao, 14 years after the crime was committed, of five national police officers accused of torturing two suspected members of a Basque armed group, Iraultza (Revolution). Three officers were sentenced to a total of five months' detention suspended for two years and eight months for the torture of José Ramón Quintana and José Pedro Otero. However, the court decided that two other officers could not be tried because more than five years had elapsed between the alleged acts of torture and the opening of proceedings against them. An appeal against this decision was lodged.

In February, two national police officers were sentenced by a Barcelona court to six months' imprisonment for torturing a detainee by beating him, forcing him to his knees, and pushing his head into a lavatory bowl and repeatedly pulling the chain.

In February reports were received that one of three Civil Guards convicted to more than four years' imprisonment for the illegal detention and torture of Kepa Urra Guridi (see Amnesty International Report 1998) had been selected for a promotional course while his appeal against the sentence was still pending. In October the Supreme Court reduced by three years the original sentence passed on the Civil Guards, while maintaining the sentence ofsix years' disqualification from public service.

In March the trial of two municipal police officers for ill-treatment of Moroccan national Sallam Essabah (see Amnesty International Report 1997) was suspended because of a technical error in the judicial proceedings. The trial of four municipal police officers for the ill-treatment of Senegalese national Mamadou Kane (see Amnesty International Report 1998) was also suspended, owing to the failure to appear of witnesses for the prosecution and defence.

In April ETA member Fernando Elejalde Tapia was sentenced by the National Court to 37 years' imprisonment for the killing of prison psychologist Francisco Gómez Elósegui (see Amnesty International Report 1998). After consulting medical reports, the Court concluded there was no evidence that injuries sustained by Fernando Elejalde, who said he had been tortured in detention, occurred after his arrest.

In April, 10 Civil Guards from the Colmenar Viejo barracks, near Madrid, were sentenced to between eight and two months' imprisonment for multiple acts of torture, ill-treatment and threats, after arresting three young men in a bar in 1994. Three officers were acquitted. One received a non-custodial sentence (see Amnesty International Report 1997).

Before ETA's declaration of a cease-fire, it pursued its campaign of killings, predominantly of local councillors and allies of the ruling Popular Party. In January José Ignacio Iruretagoyena was killed in a car bomb explosion in the Basque area of Zarautz, and Alberto Jiménez Becerill and his wife Asunción García Ortíz were shot dead in Seville. In May Pamplona councillor Tomás Caballero was shot dead in Pamplona. In June councillor Manuel Zamarreño was killed in an explosion in Rentería. He had recently replaced José Luis Caso, shot dead in December 1997.

In March Amnesty International delegates held talks with a large number of national and autonomous government and opposition leaders in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Madrid. They met, among others, the Minister of the Interior of the Spanish government and the lehendakari (the President of the Basque government). During the talks, Amnesty International expressed its concerns, including torture and ill-treatment during incommunicado detention and a perceptible increase in racially motivated assaults by law enforcement officers.

Amnesty International sought information from the authorities on new allegations of torture and ill-treatment and urged them to ensure that all such allegations were thoroughly and impartially investigated. It repeatedly condemned abuses by armed groups and called for a halt to ETA's killings of political representatives.

In June Amnesty International wrote to the Senate Constitutional Commission prior to its examination of the draft law on conscientious objection to military service and final parliamentary approval. The organization expressed concern that the text made no provisions for conscientious objection developed during military service and reiterated its belief that people should have the right to seek conscientious objector status whenever they developed their objections. It called on the Commission to do everything in its power to ensure that the law was amended to incorporate this right, as urged by the UN Human Rights Committee in 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997).

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