Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

A car, in which a bomb planted by the Basque separatist group ETA exploded, is towed by police in Madrid in this 2005 photo. Police were able to evacuate the area before the bomb, which consisted of explosives stuffed inside two backpacks and placed inside a car believed to have been stolen a day earlier, went off. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018
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Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

  • At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011
  • Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959
MADRID: The Basque separatist group ETA apologized Friday for the “pain” and “harm” it caused during its decades-long campaign of violence and appealed to its victims for forgiveness.
“We have caused a lot of pain, and irreparable harm. We want to show our respect to the dead, to the wounded and to the victims of the actions of ETA ... We sincerely regret it,” it said in a statement released in the Basque newspaper Gara.
The statement came just days before ETA is expected to announce its dissolution.
“We know that, forced by the necessities of all types of armed struggle, our actions have harmed citizens who were not responsible. We have also caused serious wrongs which are irreparable. We ask forgiveness to those people and their families,” it said.
The government in Madrid said the apology was the result of “the strength of the rule of law that has defeated ETA with the weapons of democracy.”
“ETA should have asked for forgiveness a long time ago,” it said in a statement.
ETA waged a nearly four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011.
Last year it went a step further and began laying down its arms.
In its statement to Gara, its traditional mouthpiece, ETA said it was not alone in being responsible for the violence in the Basque Country.
“Suffering existed before the birth of ETA and continued after it ceased its armed struggle,” it said.
Without specifically mentioning the Madrid government, it called for “all to recognize their responsibilities and wrong caused” and to open the way to reconciliation.
“ETA, the national Basque socialist revolutionary liberation organization, wants to acknowledge by this declaration the harm caused by its armed course, and demonstrate its commitment to definitively overcoming the consequences of the conflict and avoiding a repetition.”
The group has been severely weakened in recent years after police arrested hundreds of its members, including its leaders, and seized several of its weapons stashes.
Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959 at the height of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
On Thursday, an international mediator, Alberto Spektorowski, said that “failing a last-minute surprise” ETA would announce its dissolution on May 5 or 6.
“The declaration that ETA no longer exists will be very clear,” the Israeli academic, a member of the International Contact Group, told Basque radio EITB.
“I cannot say what words they will use but no one will be left in any doubt,” he said, adding that the announcement would be made across the border, in the French Basque region.


Watchdog urges Russia world cup opening boycott over Syria

Updated 11 min 6 sec ago
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Watchdog urges Russia world cup opening boycott over Syria

BEIRUT: World leaders should boycott Russian President Vladimir Putin’s VIP box at next month’s World Cup opening unless he takes steps to protect Syrian civilians, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Russia, which hosts the world’s most-watched sporting event for the first time this year, is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and arguably the most powerful broker in the seven-year-old war.
“In hosting one of the most televised events in the world, Russia is courting world public opinion and looking for respect,” HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in a statement.
“World leaders should signal to President Putin that unless he changes track and acts to end atrocities by Russian and Syrian forces in Syria, they won’t be in their seats in the VIP box with him on opening night.”
Billions of people worldwide are expected to watch the World Cup on television and HRW argued that Moscow’s responsibility in the suffering of Syrian civilians should not be forgotten.
Russia is the main exporter of weaponry to the Syrian regime and its forces provide on-the-ground support to government forces and allied militia.
The New York-based watchdog has documented Russian-Syrian joint military operations that “have caused thousands of civilian casualties,” including recently in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.
Roth warned that millions of other civilians faced the same fate in upcoming operations, especially in the northwestern province of Idlib that still largely escapes government control.
“World leaders should not allow a sporting event to gloss over a pattern of atrocities in Syria that now looms over two million civilians,” he said.