Saturday, May 23, 2009

An Illegalisation Too Far

Finally, Spain's Constitutional Court has placed some limits on the Ley de Partidos. This law, originally introduced to illegalise ETA's political wing, Batasuna, has subsequently been applied in an ever broader sense to illegalise any party that has had any sort of connections with Batasuna or former members of that party. The process goes like this; the right wing press launches a campaign about how party A is simply an ETA front, the state prosecution service takes up the case and the Supreme Court decides that what is good enough for the prosecutors and the press is good enough for them. It converts the process of illegalising political parties into more or less a rubber stamping formality. In this case, the left wing coalition Iniciativa Internacionalista-La Solidaridad entre los Pueblos (II-SP) was about to be prevented from taking part in next month's elections for the European Parliament.

The evidence presented by the prosecutors was based on some of those who had supported the list coming from the now illegalised ANV, and the past activities of some of the candidates; forgetting in the process that it is a coalition of different organisations. Add to this the famous catch all that if you don't explicitly condemn ETA's violence then you are considered to be part of ETA. This was enough for a majority of the Supreme Court judges, although it had several commentators pointing out that the list of those considered to be part of ETA's "entorno" was expanding rapidly precisely at the time when the group itself is at its weakest. The weakness of the argument presented for illegalisation was too much this time for the Constitutional Court, which has backed all previous illegalisations under this law. Most importantly, they have ruled that a failure to condemn terrorism is not in itself sufficient cause to make an organisation illegal. This bad law will remain, but at least it can't be used in such an indiscriminate manner against any group which may attract support from Batasuna's disenfranchised electorate.


Tom said...

Great news that II-SP can now run in the Euro elections! As you say, this sort of judgement is long overdue especially when considering parties that propose many more ideas than just Basque independence. I might vote for them now.

Troy said...

Indeed a bad law, but I am curious...Why is it so hard to condemn violence? Seems easy enough to me.

Rab said...


some people find it very difficult...

LinkViolence can take many forms, for a lot of people, the Spanish state is violent, as they found last night in Mallorca or they put up with in Valencia every other weekend. Yet, this type of violence hardly makes it into the mass media.

Troy said...

@Rab I agree that things can be better, but can what the state does and what ETA does seriously be equated?

I think that there is a rather big difference between car bombs and shooting cops directing traffic in the head and heavy handed policing.

It is dangerous to fall into the trap thinking that by condemning one thing somehow means supporting the other.

Tom said...

It's also dangerous to fall into the trap that one group's violence is somehow inherently justified, whereas another's is inherently unjustifiable.

The state makes this claim because the ability to commit violence is its last defence.

Troy said...

@Tom can you seriously equate the state's violence with that of ETA's?

StarHound said...


You seem to be assuming that the state is always going to be right and has permanent moral legitimacy.

The Spanish state moved from fascist dictatorship to the GAL era to the Ley de Partidos and it's summary justice for Basque political activists.

What kind of distinction would you draw between a GAL assassination and an ETA assassination for example?

The issue of condemning violence is also being used selectively as a tool for exclusion for a range of poltical agendas on the right and PSOE end of the left.

Troy said...

Care to defend today's (June 19th) attack???

Graeme said...

Well I certainly wouldn't defend it Troy, but let's maintain a distinction between those who carry out the deed and political activists who have never placed a bomb anywhere. It's not that easy to find a political party that condemns absolutely all varieties of violence with political ends - nor should it be be as there are many cases where it's not that hard to find a justification. In the particular case of ETA that unfortunately means trying to keep alive the myth of Spain not having changed since Franco's days - the way out of terror is much more difficult than the way in and ETA blew their chance to find the exit. Assuming they were looking for it.

Rab said...


I still have to hear someone from the PP condemning the dictatorship of Franco and its violence against democratic opposition, repression of Basque and Catalan culture, etc.
Yet, their party is not being illegalised.
It just shows how the application of the law in Spain is always skewed against the same people.

Today’s attack is a disgrace, another person killed, another widow and more children without a father.
Again we will hear exactly the same expressions of indignation and outrage, empty rhetoric and impossible promises that we have heard for the last 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. And nothing changes.
There is a political problem that will require a political solution (exactly like in NI) and banning political parties does nothing to resolve it. From their point of view, it makes violence the only way as the political route has been denied by the State. Banning Batasuna gives ETA political capital that otherwise they would not have.

The sooner both sides and public opinion realise that the only solution to this issue will be political, consensual and without humiliations for either side, the sooner there will be a chance for a proper peace process to have a chance of succeeding.

In the meantime, violence, resentment and frustration for everybody.

Troy said...

I think there's no need to 'denounce'(to use the Spanish term) violence within the margins or framework of saying "the PP has never condemned Franco's violence". Let's leave moronic actions for morons.

What the PP and its followers choose to, or more importantly, choose not to do has nothing to do with condemning these barbaric acts.

I also have to disagree with you Graeme in that I don't believe that there is ever a justification for violence, no matter the motive or instigation. Call me a peacenick or a hippy (not in the Spanish sense).

I do agree however that illegalizing the parties is nonsense. It only serves to drive some further underground and radicalize others.

I also agree that we will once again see people standing silent in front of town halls with practiced stony faces, while thinking about what they are going to order for lunch and yet see nothing change.

My point though is that there is no relation in my mind between illegalizing a party and condemning violent acts, be they bloody car bombs, kidnapping tourists, 'natural growth' settlements etc.