Wednesday, January 14, 2004

IBO : Due Process

Here you have a press release by the International Basque Organization for Human Rights regarding the shady process endured by the six Basque refugees in Mexico:

Why are Basques not receiving Due Process in Mexican Courts?

The International Basque Organization For Human Rights calls upon Mexican authorities, and the Mexican Attorney General, to refuse extradition of six Mexican Basques to Spain and to provide the six legal counsel and a full and fair opportunity in a public proceeding to present testimony and evidence in opposition to the extradition requests by the country of Spain. The traditional due process standards for international judicial proceedings adhered to by the rest of the free world must be followed in these cases and the six must be allowed to present any and all defenses they may have to extradition with the assistance of counsel competent in international law.

These six, José María Urquijo Borde, Ernesto Alberdi Alejalde, Asier Arronategi Duralde, Félix Salustiano García, Juan Artola Díaz y María Asunción Gorrotxategi,have been accused by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon of being a part of ETA. Garzon claims they were laundering cash and that some of the accused had incriminating videotapes and computer documents in their homes. Attorneys for the defendants claim these charges are ludicrous, that, in fact, the incriminating tape was a documentary about the Basque Country, and money laundering charges stem from relatives wiring funds to each other after the sale of personal property. In fact, one of the accused had been wiring funds to the Basque Country because he and his family were preparing to move back, and had even purchased their airline tickets.

Mexican law places the burden of showing sufficient cause to extradite the accused squarely upon the party or parties seeking extradition. Yet, none of the evidence supposedly gathered against the accused has been shown in court. Under these circumstances, the extradition requests cannot be granted pursuant to Mexican law. In spite of all this, Garzon is pushing hard for Mexico to extradite the accused to Spain.

Why this sudden, hard push for Mexico to send Mexican-Basques back to Spain, after having lived, worked and raised families for years, decades even? Many human rights organizations such as the Mexican group "Fideicomiso para la Infancia " claim that these prisoners are being used as currency. In other words, if Mexico likes doing
business with Spain, they had better do what Spain wants. After Spain and Mexico crafted their extradition treaty, Mexican-Basque refugees were quickly charged with terrorism by Spain, and their extraditions were requested. At the same time, Spanish business increased within Mexico.

In one recent extradition case, the accused, Lorenzo Llona, spent months in prison awaiting extradition to Spain on 20 year old charges, before his lawyers proved that he had actually been sitting in a Mexican government office processing legal paperwork the very same day that Spanish authorities accused him of committing a terrorist act. Even so, Spain continued the extradition request, until Mexican authorities freed Llona with no charges.

On top of the total outrageousness of the extradition process is the disturbing fact that if these accused are extradited to Spain, they will be taken to the Guardia Civil headquarters in Madrid and will be held incommunicado for 5 days. No lawyers, no access to the outside world and access to court-appointed physicians only, who indeed, are a part of the system. Many prisoners in Spain held under these conditions routinely complain of torture. Human rights organizations world-wide, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have complained about torture in Spain and the conditions which lead to it.

It would seem for the best, given these facts, for the six accused to remain in Mexico until the charges are sorted out. They are certainly entitled to no less due process than the former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, enjoyed when Garzon attempted to subject Kissinger to the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts to depose him concerning crimes in South America. Perhaps for political reasons, that ill-advised attempt by Garzon utterly failed.

IBO urges readers to voice their concerns about the Mexican extradition process to:

Ambassador Juan José Bremer
Embassy of Mexico in the United States
1911 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1615


Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F St., NW, Washington, D.C., USA 20006.
Telephone: (202)458-6002
Fax: (202)458-3992.

For more information, please contact:

International Basque Organization For Human Rights
P.O. Box 225
Corte Madera, CA 94976

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