International negotiators held a peace conference Friday to mark the dissolution of the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), after its 60-year fight for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy commended the victims of the Basque separatist group during an address in Madrid.
“Now that ETA has at last announced its disappearance, our first thought must be for the victims, for all of them without exception, without distinctions,” Rajoy said.
ETA released an open letter Thursday to the Basque people, saying it had “completely dismantled all of its structures” and “will no longer express political positions, promote initiatives or interact with other stakeholders.”
ETA, whose full name translates to “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in the Basque language, is responsible for around 850 deaths in its decades-long campaign against Spain. Victim groups rejected the dissolution as propaganda and the Spanish government said it would continue to prosecute anyone involved in past violence.
“Convictions will continue to be executed,” Rajoy said. “There will be no impunity” for crimes committed by former ETA members.
One of the mediators of the years-long peace process, South African attorney Brian Currin, told the conference in the southwestern French town of Cambo-les-Baines the decision to disband is “a commitment to take part in the democratic process” which would “require reconciliation.”
Basque militants founded the group in response to Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco, who banned the Basque language in public.
But Basques say they were marginalized and suppressed for decades before Franco seized power in 1939.