Rights court ruling on Spain's Batasuna ban 'bad news'

2nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

A ruling upholding Spain's decision to ban the Basque separatist organisation Batasuna is "very bad news".

San Sebastian – A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights upholding Spain's decision to ban the Basque separatist organisation Batasuna is "very bad news", the group's leader said Wednesday.

Conceding that Madrid had won a political battle, Arnaldo Otegi told a press conference in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian that it was also a "serious mistake."

"It gives political cover to the state of apartheid in the Basque Country," he charged.

In three rulings, the Strasbourg court rejected all the petitions of the Herri Batasuna and Batasuna organisations which had tried to register as political parties in 2001 but were declared unconstitutional by the Spanish government and disbanded in March 2003.

The groups had appealed to the court on the grounds that their rights to freedom of association and expession had been violated.

But the court said disbanding the parties was a response "to a pressing social need" given their ties to Basque militant group ETA, listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

"Given the situation in Spain for several years regarding terrorist attacks, these ties can be considered objectively as a threat to democracy," said the court, backing the position of the Spanish authorities.

The judges said the Basque parties "contradicted the concept of a 'democratic society' and presented a major danger to Spain's democracy."

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland straddling northern Spain and part of southwestern France.

Otegi said the ruling smacked of the "war on terror" declared by former US president George W. Bush," adding that Batasuna's demand for negotiations with Madrid leading to the right of self-determination for the Baseques was unaltered.

AFP / Expatica

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