Support the Peace Makers
Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin)
Ronnie Kasrils (ANC)
On 16 May 2019, Josu Urrutikoetxea was arrested in a public hospital in France while receiving urgent treatment for a serious illness He is accused of being a member of the armed Basque organization, ETA.
ETA no longer exists. It declared unilaterally the end of violence in 2011, after a request from leading international figures in San Sebastian, in October 2011. They unilaterally proceeded to decommissioning in front of an International Verification Committee in 2017 and it publicly announced its dissolution in 2018 to an international organization after more than 50 years of existence.
All those steps would not have been possible without the complete and univocal commitment and perseverance of leading figures of the Basque pro-independence movement and Josu Urrutikoetxea played a crucial role in this.
As long-standing member of the Basque pro-independence movement Josu Urrutikoetxea demonstrated enormous courage in promoting and making possible the debate for the end of violence, disarmament and dissolution of ETA. He was essential to this process. Without him, and others like him, it would have been almost impossible to achieve the significant change that has occurred in the Basque Country.
Those of us who have been involved in peace processes and transformations from conflict to peace, know the challenges of those processes. Negotiating with your own side is always the most difficult negotiation but it is essential if progress is to be achieved. It required the commitment and courage of leaders like Martin McGuinness and Nelson Mandela to make peaceful transition possible in Ireland and South Africa.
We would appeal to France to support the efforts for peace in the Basque Country. Join with us in sending a clear message to the international community that France cares and values the efforts for peace of leaders like Josu Urrutikoetxea.
The arrest of Josu Urrutikoetxea sends the wrong message to those in the Basque country and internationally working to end conflict. Peace makers must be encouraged, supported and their efforts reinforced by positive policies.
A lot has changed for the better in the Basque Country in recent years. Every effort must be made to ensure that the process of transformation and reconciliation continues. The international community, especially, has a crucial role to play in encouraging this process and supporting the hard work done by the Basque people.
On Wednesday 19 June, two successive events inspired us with hope and then with sadness. Our hopes were raised when the Court of Appeal released Josu Urrutikoetxea so that he could defend himself more fully against the accusations made against him.
We were disappointed by the decision of the French state which meant a new detention, in the name of a European court warrant whose examination did not require a deprivation of freedom.
The inhumanity of such an expeditious procedure deeply saddens us. That a sovereign decision of justice is immediately swept away by an intervention under state influence is a matter of deep concern.
We would repeat our appeal to the French government to release Josu Urrutikoetxea.
Such a decision by the French government would send a significant message of encouragement and solidarity for the efforts for peace in the Basque Country.
Gerry Adams, TD for Louth, SF Former President
Ronnie Kasrils, ANC Veteran, Former Minister of Defence and intelligence Republic of South Africa
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