Thursday, April 15, 2004

Anti-Torture Campaign

Today at Berria English:

TAT: “Last year was a significant one in the anti-torture campaign”

They say “a massive outcry” against torture has come from society, but the momentum has to be kept up

Ainhoa Oiartzabal – HERNANI (Gipuzkoa)

“Unfortunately, we’ve already begun to gather material for next year’s book. Because there are arrests and tortured people.” That is how Iñigo Elkoro, the TAT-Anti-Torture Group lawyer, began yesterday’s presentation of the book which provides an assessment of 2003. It will be distributed on April 24 and 25 together with the Gara daily newspaper. Thereafter it will be on sale at bookshops.

In the TAT’s view, 2003 was “a significant year” in the anti-torture campaign. Indeed, “there was a massive outcry against torture from Basque society when detainees denounced tortures in the wake of the closing down of Egunkaria, but unfortunately it did not last.” Elkoro stressed that this attitude was “praiseworthy, but we are going to repeat what we have said time and time again: this momentum of denunciation has to be kept up, if we are to put an end to torture.” In this respect, the TAT lawyer highlighted the 50,000 signatures against torture collected last year and made a call to politicians: “Society has shown it is prepared to take steps against torture. Now it is up to the political parties to take up society’s cause.” After the political assessment, Elkoro and Aiert Larrarte, the TAT representatives, presented the main areas covered by the book. A number of them are referred to below.

25th Anniversary of the Spanish Constitution

“Last year was the 25th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution and although it prohibits any form of torture, 10,000 Basque citizens have been arrested and held incommunicado over the past 25 years. 25% of them have suffered torture or bad treatment.” Elkoro added that six people had died as a result.

In the lawyer’s view, it has become patently clear over the last 25 years that the Constitution is no guarantee against the use of torture on Basque citizens: “On the contrary, laws have been changed to ensure torture can be used.”

Criticism from international institutions

Elkoro highlighted the fact that Spain had come in for fierce criticism abroad over the last few years. “We can refer, for example, to the visit by Theo van Boven, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, and to the criticism voiced by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.”

Change in attitude of the French Police

“Last year saw the French Police joining the torturers’ club”. In fact, four people arrested by the French Police in 2003 denounced torture.

Role of court-appointed doctors

The book deals at length with the part played by the court-appointed doctors. In this respect Benito Morentin, a Bilbo court-appointed doctor, Itxaso Idoiaga, the TAT doctor, and Hans Draminsky Petersen, member of the Danish association Physicians for Human Rights (Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims) examined the work of Spanish court-appointed doctors, criticised them and explained what they should be like.

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