Respect for the Human Rights of Prisoners and their reintegration

Bake Bidea and Lokarri presented a document of recommendations in May 2013 to promote the peace process. One of its sections focused on several proposals to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners in the peace process:

4. We recommend a consensus on a comprehensive solution to the issue of prisoners and people on the run. This is an essential part of building a stable and lasting coexistence. To do this, we consider it necessary to adapt the law to the new reality and implement a transitional justice that helps society to consolidate coexistence. At the same time, and as a starting point, aspects of prison policy that go against human rights or the humanitarian treatment of prisoners, removing exceptional measures that are contrary to international standards should be modified —and more specifically, the situation of those who are seriously ill, the refusal to allow the release of prisoners who have served out their sentence, and the dispersion of prisoners, which punishes their families.

5. We recommend that the process of reintegration be done through legal channels, accepting that it is comprehensive and should hence take place in individualised and staggered manner, within a prudent timespan. This process requires that prisoners show a commitment to the new peace scenario and renounce their violent ways. Furthermore, they should recognise, as the case may be, the harm done as a result of their actions.

6. We recommend that prisoners be active agents of the process of peace and normalisation. It is therefore important to facilitate contacts and the exchange of opinions between prisoners and Basque society and the competent institutions, in order to promote coexistence for a future in which no type of violence takes place.

At the June session of the Social Forum this year proposals which allow to develop these recommendations were again discussed, this time with the contribution of experts in human rights, social reintegration and prisoner involvement in peace processes.

Taking into account the ideas put forward, the organisers wish to make the following proposals on the reintegration of prisoners:

1. We propose to separate issues regarding respect for the fundamental rights of prisoners from those relating to their reintegration. Their fundamental rights, insofar as they are individuals whose human dignity should be respected, must be guaranteed unconditionally, regardless of their position towards the peace process and coexistence. Meanwhile, it is advisable to clarify and agree on the conditions to enable their reintegration.

2. In relation to their fundamental human rights, we consider that international treaties signed by Spain and France should be enforced and complied with without excuse or delay. Their compliance implies the following:

– There should be an end to the dispersion of prisoners away their families and social setting, which translates in their transfer to prisons of their choice in such a way that they can maintain ties that may enable their reintegration. The relevant authorities should hence approve recent requests for transfers to Zaballa prison.

– The application of the rights of seriously ill or elderly prisoners should not be delayed and they should be released on parole.

– As ruled by the European Court of Human Rights held, prisoners have the right to know what is the expected length of their sentence. For this reason, all steps tending to delay the release of those who have served out their sentence should cease.

3. With regard to reintegration, we propose a number of concrete measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners:

– Devolution of prison services to the Basque Autonomous Community and the Chartered Community of Navarre, to comply both with the Gernika Statute and with the Navarre Charter Improvement Act

– To develop a social reintegration scheme for prisoners with the consensus of institutions and political parties and the participation of social stakeholders. The basis for this scheme should be: 1) that people who are imprisoned because of their ties —whether real or otherwise— to ETA should be given the same treatment as any other prisoner; 2) that the current move of Basque society from a situation of violence and confrontation to one of peace and coexistence be taken into account; 3) that it respect the right of victims to remembrance and recognition; 4) that prisoners be involved in it and 5) that prisoners be unequivocally committed to peaceful coexistence and a respect for differences and pluralism.

4. With regard to the contribution of prisoners to coexistence and the peace process, we consider that:

– It is necessary to enable the constructive participation of prisoners in the peace process. This would be helped by the removal of restrictions so that they can talk and work both among themselves and with their lawyers and mediators, as well as with citizens, through their representatives and social players.

– One of the main contributions of prisoners to coexistence consists of a clear commitment to the peace and coexistence process, to renounce their violent ways and to sincerely recognise the harm done.