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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Batasuna ban: Is it the right move?
The Basque separatist party Batasuna has been banned for three years.

Anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the suspension of the party's activities, accusing it of supporting the outlawed armed separatist group ETA.

Batasuna has angered many Spanish politicians by its refusal to condemn ETA bomb attacks.

The party denies any links with the terrorist group, and has called on its supporters to occupy party offices to avoid closure by the authorities.

Do you agree with the decision to ban Batasuna? Or could the move backfire and lead to more violence? Should similar bans be attempted in other countries?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

It's perfect. Many Batasuna members belong, or used to belong, to ETA, and they are paid with public money as they work in the parliament. I don't want the taxes I pay to become their salaries. They are terrorists. It's just that simple. I must also say that ETA is not the same as the IRA at all - please, read more history and learn.
Pablo, Madrid, Spain

Control, revenge and a comfortable distraction from Spain's real problems are what they want

Mikel, Scotland
Anybody who knows the Basques will know that banning Batasuna will not stop the conflict and anybody who knows the Spanish Government knows, that ending the conflict is not their intention. Control, revenge and a comfortable distraction from Spain's real problems are what they want. There is a saying in the Basque Country - "if there was no Basque country, the Spanish media would have nothing to write about anymore." The sad thing is that such a thing goes in today's Europe which allegedly upholds the high principles of democracy, freedom etc.
Mikel, Scotland

The banning of Batasuna is an outrage. How can Spain call itself a civilised member of the EU when it has an unelected judge with the power to close down a political party? The link with ETA, even if very likely true, is crucially unproven. As a firm believer in the principle of self-determination, I urge all Basque people to use every peaceful method at their disposal to rid themselves of this foreign menace called Spain.
Jonathan Sinakgomo, South Africa/UK

A lot of people who wrote here obviously don't know much about the Basques at all. Ninety per cent of Basques oppose ETA/Batasuna. Some of these want to remain within Spain, others would prefer independence, but they all express their views without resorting to murder, unlike Batasuna/ETA. The government has made it quite clear that this is not about denying anyone's right to ask for independence, it's exclusively about banning an organization with proven ties to organized terror. Do you admit such groups in the US or UK? You don't, do you?
Susana, Spain

And this is the "democratic" country Britain would have us share our sovereignty with?
Joe, Gibraltar

The aim is to cut the party's funding, which ultimately goes to the terrorists. Saying the ban is undemocratic is like saying that prosecuting the mafia is an attack to free association. By cutting their funding they'll have to resort to crime which will lose them whatever support they might have.
Bob, USA

What they did was do their job under the alliance with the US. This is a War On Terror. As President Bush said, "You're either with us or with the terrorists." Spain has done willingly what the Anti-terrorism coalition did in Afghanistan.
Val Tocitu, USA

A lot of people seem to be missing the point here. Whether or not the party has ties to the ETA is irrelevant. Banning a political party outright is something one would expect to see in some banana republic or tinpot dictatorship, not a supposed democracy. It is a gross violation of political and individual liberty; the Spanish government and those who support this move should be ashamed of themselves.
Jeremy, Canada

Does democracy now mean that your vote must be State approved?

Golda, Spain
The Basques who vote for their Batasuna party pay their taxes to the Spanish state. And now that the party has been prohibited by the government of Spain, to whom can they vote? We Europeans strongly need a constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression to defend to minorities like the Basques. Or does democracy now mean that your vote must be State approved? For the Basques and for all the cultures of Europe fighting to keep their identity -- Peace, Liberty and Happiness.
Golda, Spain

Certainly nobody here is suggesting that it is a solution to the problem of ETA's terrorism; it is an emotional reaction to a series of barbaric killings that have shaken this country and made those of us who support democracy over violence want to show our disgust with ETA and all those who support it. Until they realise that they can't achieve their goals through violence, there will be no progress! If Batasuna wants peace, let their actions speak louder than their words.
James Taylor, Spain

Such a move is fundamentally anti-democratic

Mark C, US
Banning such a political party should not even be an option. Such a move is fundamentally anti-democratic and should not be tolerated by Europe, the US, or the rest of the world. But what I find most disturbing is the iron-willed insistence of Spain to remain in control of the Basque regions. There is nothing sacred about current borders. If the Basque people want independence, they should have it, but the choice should be theirs not someone else's.
Mark C., US

I believe the issue is quite simple. Like many before them and more in the future these so called 'political parties', like the Irish politicals, were born out of violence and their fallback is the threat of violence. Democracy has to have the backbone to stand up to that or you are into appeasement - and history has shown what a weakness that can be. Like all these terror/politicals they should renounce violence completely, disarm completely and advocate justice for their victims - anything less should be treated by democracy for what it is - a sham.
Mike, UK

To Mike in the UK: The issue isn't "quite simple" as you believe. ETA are wrong, there is no denying it. But if you ban a legitimate voice of 150,000 people, they are going to feel hatred towards those who ban the party. A Basque friend of mine in Navarra e-mailed me this morning and told me "Authorities didn't think on the effect of the measure." Exactly. They didn't think the whole thing out. Its a shame to say that this will not silence the etarras.
Bernard, Ireland

Banning a political party violates the right to freedom of speech and is very dangerous to democracy! However any political party that has links to terrorist groups like Batasuna or Sinn Fein should have ALL their elected privileges taken away from them, and should not be included in any talks for peaces. You cannot negotiate with terrorists!
Roger, Wales

However much people hate to talk to terrorists they must do so

John, Ireland
Would peace have been achieved in Northern Ireland if Sinn Fein was banned? No it wouldn't. However much people hate to talk to terrorists they must do so if there is ever to be peace. The British Government engaged with Sinn Fein and the IRA and they got results, in the words of Former PM John Major "if we fail the first time we will try again, if we fail a second time we will try again and if we fail a third time, we will try again".(Something like that anyway)
John, Ireland

To me it depends on how closely knit the political party and the terrorist group are. If the party is simply a political outlet for the terrorist group, in other words a terrorist group in everything but name, then it should be banned. Many of you seem to lack a foundation in the principles of democracy. It does not mean "anything goes"; democracy requires both vigilance and discipline. Considering this group only pulls 10-15% at the polls, I don't think they have a very big claim on the Basque's aspirations in the first place.
Chris, USA

Banning Batasuna will not bring peace to the Basque Country. Yes, they might be reprehensible and repugnant in their methods but they do represent 10-15% of the electorate. Most of the Basque Parliament is against the outlawing of Batasuna but that matters little when most of the Spanish Parliament is in favour. The Basque people have already spoken in the polls: on May 13, 2001. They rejected ETA and gave Batasuna a terrible drubbing. However, what seems to be lost on the Spanish press is the fact that they also rejected the Spanish nationalists (Popular Party and Socialist Workers' Party). The future of the Basque Country should be determined by the Basque people themselves through democratic means.
Mikel, Basque Country

Most Basque people don't vote for this group

Francisco Cano, Spain
It seems that some people can't understand a very simple thing: ETA and Batasuna are not only against Spanish state but Basque people as well. The most of Basque people don't vote for this group that opposes democracy and freedom on Basque country.
Francisco Cano, Spain

People remark that people turn into terrorists due to their frustration of not being able to achieve any of their goals via the democratic process. Therefore surely we should be trying to increase communication between terrorists and ourselves. But what if their goals are purely selfish and not for the common good, reasoning does not work - is it wise to allow them a foothold then?
Mark, UK

It is a mistake to ban any party in a democracy. The Spanish government says Batasuna's silence about ETA terrorism is an evidence of ties. This ban is an imposition from Spanish majority to Basque majority that reject it. All non-Castilian parties in the Spanish parliament didn't vote for this ban. Unfortunately, the violent people have more arguments against Spanish democracy. These are bad news for peace.
Jordi, Catalonia

ETA is going to be reinforced

Joan, Catalan Countries
Banning Batsuna is a political and historical mistake; it's impossible to illegalize someone's ideas, and ETA is going to be reinforced: now ETA can simply say: 'Spain is not a democracy, why stop killing?'
Joan, Catalan Countries

Terrorists tend to be young, intelligent individuals. What turns them to such violent acts is their frustration of not being able to achieve any of their goals via the democratic process. Therefore surely we should be trying to increase communication between terrorists and ourselves. By silencing them we lose any hope of reaching a peaceful solution or any solution at all!

ETA, the terrorist organization, is the one in charge of Batasuna. It is ETA who gives the orders. Batasuna is the political branch of a terrorist organization. There are order independentist political organizations not linked to ETA which have not been banished, because the issue here is terrorism, not political thought. The militants of Batasuna threaten those who oppose the independence of the Basque Country and control the streets by violence the same way the SA and the SS controlled the streets in Germany. Batasuna is part of the terror which is threatening democracy in the Basque country, the only place in Western Europe where most of the politians need to be protected in order not to be killed (by ETA).
JMR, Spain

I can't see banning a political party stopping the bombings. If you banned the BNP some people would still be racist. Remember the farce when Gerry Adams was not allowed to talk on TV? Good work by the police and security forces snuffs out the bombers and forces people back round the negotiating table.
r, uk

Violence will be the only alternative for more and more people

Pieter Vanherpe, Belgium
If you make it impossible to vote for a political party by banning it, you are banning a political way for the solution of problems. Violence will be the only alternative for more and more people.
Pieter Vanherpe, Belgium

The political wing should not be banned - the Spanish government needs to let the Basque people decide who should rule - whether it's part of Spain or not. There needs to be political dialogue just like the British and Irish did over N Ireland. Banning parties is just moving the whole problem back to the Franco era.
Eamonn Kelly, Spain

Certainly the Spanish are right to ban Batasuna. No democratic state ought to allow a party to pursue a twin track strategy of violence on the one hand, and political activity on the other. Far from the Spanish learning from the "peace process" in Northern Ireland, we should learn from their example and ban all parties connected with terrorism.
Sean Fear, UK

If the EU was truly the champion of human rights, it would give its minorities the right to decide their own faith through democratic, just, and independent referenda. As soon as governments around the world have the will to change the status quo, the world's ETA-like organisations will disappear almost instantly. So, let's put people above borders.
Robert Imreh, Transylvania

Not all Basques support independence

Dani, Spain
Please stop the analogies with Northern Ireland and Palestine: it is not as simplistic as that, and there is no such "Spanish occupation". Not all Basques support independence. Remember that propaganda can also be a weapon. Batasuna also use their representation in the European Parliament to slander Spain and they have supported ETA in speeches.
Dani, Spain

Batasuna´s ban is not the solution, and is not even a democratic option. I am scared by the Spanish media coverage of the issue between Batasuna and the Spanish government. I haven't heard an opinion of a Basque citizen about the problem (although Batasuna represents 15% of the Basque electorate). The news only shows politicians criticising Batasuna, and threatening those political parties who don't support the ban.
Francisco, Peru

Democracy doesn't mean that everything is allowed. Democracy must have some rules and principles. One of them is the expression of freedom for all ideas but the most important one is to respect the lives of innocent people.
Fernando, Spain

In this global age, there is no place for regional independence

GT, Switzerland
To Rich from Cymru: Because they risk secession in the longer term! Then what prevents the Corsicans, Brittany, the Welsh, the Scots and others doing the same? Do we want to go back to the Middle Ages when little fiefdoms held regions under their power? Come on! If we are building a Europe then this is ridiculous. In this global age, there is no place for regional independence... What would the Basques or the Corsicans live off? Yes, Batasuna mut be banned and even its leaders jailed.
GT, Switzerland

To GT, Switzerland: Euskadi (the Basque Country) IS a country - defined by its language, culture and geography. A wealthy country at that - which is one of the main reasons Spain keeps its hands on it. If Batasuna is banned, the conservative Basque party PNV will be next.
TM, England, England

To GT, Switzerland: This is rich coming from someone who lives in Switzerland, which is only about half the size of Scotland. If the Swiss can be independent then the Scots, Welsh ,Basques and anyone else that wants it should have the right to independence if the majority vote in favour.
Jim Hutton, UK and France

Aznar seems to be following Bush's line of "if you're not with us, you're against us"

Jonathan, Catalunya
The trigger for this move to ban Batasuna was their failure to condemn an ETA bombing. But they did not support the bombing either. Aznar seems to be following Bush's line of "if you're not with us, you're against us". That a party can be banned for failing to agree with the government shows the current state of "democracy" in the Spanish state.
Jonathan, Catalunya

Why is Europe so supportive of a Palestinian state and not of an independent Basque state? Most arguments in favour of a Palestinian state are all valid (and stronger) in the Basque case.
Ed, Netherlands

I agree with Ed from the Netherlands. Why is both Europe in general and Spain in particular so supportive of a Palestinian state but not a Basque state? The Basques have a 10,000 year presence in the land, and unlike many Palestinian groups who have called for destroying Israel, no Basque groups have called for the destruction of Spain - all they want is an end to the Spanish occupation of Basque land. For years even, the Spanish have tried to end Basque national identity, the only "concession" they have offered the Basques is the right for them to learn and speak their own language!
Benjamin, USA

In reply to Benjamin in the USA, while Basque people have the right to self-determination they are still Spanish citizens and entitled to full rights as any Spaniards. Therefore, in no way can you compare the Basque issue with the Palestinian one.
Wesam, Canada

Banning the party will simply cause more frustration and violence

Collin McClendon, USA
ETA has had a long history of violence. However, I would hope that like the IRA's Sinn Fein the ability to have political expression would eventually lead to a more peaceful means of negotiation. Banning the party will simply cause more frustration and violence.
Collin McClendon, USA

Of course yes! we have been suffering these terrorists since I was born. Their romantic cause has no reason. Self-determination? Spain is a country of countries as proud as the Basques. If the Basques should have the right to self-determination. This is nonsense.
Guillermo, Spain (Cantabria)

Although the idea of banning the political wing of ETA sounds like a good idea I think it would backfire. If the separatists did not have a political outlet for the cause I think many others would turn to violence as a lot of people feel that there is no need for violence if there is an alternative. Take away the alternative and what do you have left? ETA.
Kobe, uk

They are going the wrong way about achieving their aims. Banning them would push the group underground which would make them harder to monitor, keeping the group 'legal' makes it easier for the state to monitor a terrorist group.
Richard Szadura, UK

Banning a political party that allegedly promotes, engages in or sponsors terrorism allows the organisation only one means of expressing its goals; and that's more terrorism. Rather than an outright ban, the Spanish Government should allow outside, credible, neutral parties to mediate this conflict to work out an effective, acceptable compromise that merges the desire for self-determination with the need for Spanish unity based on the principles of the Mitchell's Good Friday Agreement, which embraced cross-border, transnational, multi-ethnic interests that ended the conflicts in Northern Ireland. Igonikon Jack, USA
Igonikon Jack, USA

Have we banned Sinn Fein or any of the Unionist political groups? No, we haven't - and Spain should take a leaf from our book in that regard.
Jenny, UK

ETA's political wing and any political party with a violent ideology trying to take advantage of democracy should be banned.
Manuel Perez, Spain

No! People have the right to express their political opinion as long as it does not defame the other citizen.
Steven, UK

I loathe violence and ETA has absolutely no right to do what they do. Their actions merely cloud the real issue: Why do the French and Spanish governments refuse to grant self-determination to the Basques?
Rich, Cymru/Wales

Erri-Batasuna should be banned, ETA and Erri-Batasuna are one and the same. In addition, I would like to answer to Rich, Wales - even if Spain granted the independence of the Basque the killings and the terror would not stop. ETA's actions have moved beyond their original goal. I would be agreeable to let the Basque's become independent as long as they return the industry which was provided by the government/grants through history.
Marta Perez, USA

It seems to me that this move is not about deterring terrorism but putting political opponents under check.
Andrew, US

This is like us banning Sinn Fein - although I don't agree with ETA's tactics, you cannot lay the blame for their actions at the door of the political party. You cannot ban a political party. Where is the democracy in that?
Sandra, UK

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23 Aug 02 | Europe
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