8 November 2007 Edition
International : Sinn Féin attends Gernika solidarity launch
International network for Basque independence
ELECTED representatives from Ireland, the Basque Country, Germany, Scotland, Flanders and Catalonia met at the beginning of November at the first gathering of the Gernika Network for Self-determination, an alliance to internationalise the plight of the Basque pro-independence movement.
This new initiative was launched on 25 April in the Basque town of Gernika, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Nazi bombing of the town during the Spanish Civil War and it focuses on the right to self-determination for the Basque people.
Ireland was represented by Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly. Others attending were Michael Leutert, MP of the German party Die Linke (The Left) and member of the Bundestag’s Human Rights Commission; Flemish MP Jan Loones; SNP member Lloyd Quinan, who is currently working in the independence dialogue initiative launched by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond MP; and Otger Amatller, Laia Jurado, Ana María Guijarro and Anna Gabriel, councillors of the Catalan party, Candidatures d’Unitat Popular (CUP). Batasuna’s representatives Karmelo Landa and Eusebio Lasa were also present.
There was an official reception in Gernika’s town hall attended by the town’s local government, led by Basque nationalist parties EA and ANV, and members of Gernika Batzordea.
Some of the signatories to the Gernika Network initiative are working ahead in highlighting the situation in the Basque Country. In Italy, Rifundazione Comunista and the Green Party have tabled motions in the Senate in relation to the rights of Basque people to decide on their future.
Lloyd Quinan (SNP, Scotland) pointed out the closeness between his country and the Basque Country “because we want to be part of the international community and we have the right to our own voice in the United Nations Assembly”. The SNP is committed to publicise the Basque situation in Scotland, he said, “because it is necessary that we all defend the human and political right of all citizens in all countries around the world”.
German MP Michael Leutert referred to Hitler’s support for the Franco regime’s suppression of the Basques. It would never be forgotten, he said. “We Germans have a historical responsibility to contribute to the solution of those conflicts that violated human rights. I hope this network will serve to restore the rights of the Basques.
“Next year we will be celebrating 50 years of the UN Charter of Human Rights and there will be an opportunity to vindicate the rights of this people.”
Francie Brolly referred to an issue particularly important to Irish and Basque people: their languages. Basque and Gaelic are key elements in the identity of both nations. Brolly highlighted the value of keeping minority languages alive, as they represent “the soul of humankind”.
News in Brief
Pakistan under martial law
PAKISTAN’S President Pervez Musharraf has imposed de facto martial law as the country’s Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of his October election victory. The Supreme Court was to decide whether Musharraf was eligible to run for re-election last month while remaining army chief and the government feared that the court could rule against him.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and eight other judges refused to endorse Musharraf’s emergency order, declaring it unconstitutional. Chaudhry was dismissed and the Supreme Court surrounded by troops.
Rights have been suspended, media has been restricted and hundreds of people arrested under the emergency decree. Four to five hundred “preventative arrests” had been carried out by the government by the start of this week.
General Musharraf has been a key ally of the USA and has received about $10 billion in aid since 2001. The Bush administration has willingly turned a blind eye to Musharraf’s dictatorial rule and human rights violations in the country to secure his support for the so-called ‘War on Terror’.
Spanish royal visit provokes Morocco
A ROYAL visit by Spain’s King Juan Carlos to the Spanish North African coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla has been met by diplomatic and public protests in Morocco, which claims sovereignty over the territories.
Morocco recalled its ambassador from Spain last Friday.
High-level Spanish visits to the two strategic enclaves are rare. When Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero went there in 2006 it was the first by a Spanish head of government since 1981.
Mexican floods trap 300,000
HUNDREDS of thousands of people have fled severe floods in the south Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, where rivers burst their banks after heavy rain.
The centre of Tabasco state’s capital city, Villahermosa, is submerged between 6 feet and 18 feet of water with only rooftops visible from the air. It is estimated that at least 300,000 people are still trapped in their homes in Tabasco, waiting to be rescued by boat or helicopter.
Overall, the floods have claimed at least five lives in southern Mexico.
It is unclear how many people have lost their lives but more than 30 bodies are reported to have been found so far.
UN Special Envoy back in Burma
THE UN Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is back in the country in his second visit since September’s violent repression of anti-government protests.
Gambari has held meetings with the ruling regime and there are hopes he will get to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.