Justice for Josu Urrutikoetxea?

Sébastien Nadot, Member of Parliament for Haute-Garonne, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, addresses a written question to Éric Dupond-Moretti, Keeper of the Seals (Garde des Sceaux) and French Minister of Justice, before the trial of Josu Urrutikoetxea to be held on 15 and 16 June before the 16th criminal chamber of the Paris judicial court.

Mr Sébastien Nadot draws the attention of the Minister of Justice to the forthcoming appearances before French courts of Josu Urrutikoetxea, a historic member of ETA but also a key figure in bringing the conflict in the Basque Country to an end.

Mr Minister of Justice, you recently said in the Hemicycle: "There are no good or bad terrorists, there are terrorists." And of course, we can fully agree with you in condemning unreservedly anyone who commits violent and illegal acts with the aim of provoking a climate of terror in public opinion, regardless of their innermost intentions. A representative of the nation never wants to hear anything else from a Minister of Justice.

On October 19th through 22nd 2020, Josu Urrutikoetxea appeared in Paris in two proceedings. The first one was postponed to February 22-23, 2021 and the second one was remanded for the third time and will not be judged before June 2021. The acts of which he is accused in these two proceedings are an "offence of association criminals with terrorist intentions", even though the acts covered by these proceedings are directly related to the preparations, from 2002 to 2005, for the Geneva negotiations, for the former, and, for the latter, from 2011 to 2013, to his participation in the Oslo negotiations to resolve this conflict.

From the 1980s onwards, Josu Urrutikoetxea worked to set up the Algiers talks, before being arrested in the middle of the truce on 11th January 1989 in Bayonne, just a few days before the opening of these first attempts to bring an end to the hostilities. Josu Urrutikoetxea was elected twice to the Basque Parliament from 1998 onwards and, on behalf of the Basque movement, led the preparations from 2002 to 2005, then the negotiations in Geneva from 2005 to 2006 and in Oslo from 2011 to 2013 with the Spanish state – at the latter's request – and with the technical support of the French government and the diplomatic protectorate of the host states Switzerland and Norway. Finally, it was he who announced from the Henry Dunant Centre in Geneva the self-dissolution of the ETA organization on 3 May 2018, after the end of the armed struggle was declared on 20 October 2011 and weapons were handed over on 8 April 2017 in Bayonne, thus laying the unprecedented foundation, due to its unilateral nature, for the resolution of the last and oldest armed conflict in Western Europe.

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner", wrote Nelson Mandela. And yet Josu Urrutikoetxea is accused of having been in contact with ETA members at the time when he held a negotiating mandate to bring ETA into a peace process! In the first instance, rather than comparing the indictment with the facts known to the French state services, in particular the Counter-Terrorism Coordination Unit (UCLAT), regarding

Josu Urrutikoetxea's position as a peace negotiator at the time of the alleged acts, the 60 years of armed action of the entire ETA organization were the ones that ended up in the box of the defendants.

French justice, wanting to brandish a kind of trophy, may havesoughtto answer the quasi- existential question that J.M.G. Le Clézio once asked: What is left for men when wars are over? But what has justice said to the peacemakers, to those who have made this fight for peace their life all over this planet? And what will it say to those who have worked for peace until it becomes an actual fact? The Nobel Peace and Literature laureates, experts in conflict resolution, statesmen and women, parliamentarians, magistrates, intellectuals and artists from all over the world who have united to ask France for the protection and security of Josu Urrutikoetxea and of all the peace negotiators, have all taken the long time to think about it, as it is true that the case is very sensitive and difficult. But they all came to the same conclusions: a condemnation of Josu Urrutikoetxea for the acts of which he is accused in these two "cases" would be a blow to the most elementary principles of diplomacy as well as to peace.

Mr. Le Garde des Sceaux, Minister of Justice, do you have to be a winner to be a peacemaker? Mr. Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice, are there good and bad peace-makers?

Sébastien Nadot (Written question no. 2021-06-00151)
Member of Parliament for Haute-Garonne, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of the Humanitarian Action Study Group and Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Migration of the French National Assembly

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