THE conflict resolution process in the Basque Country has achieved historic progress over the last decade and changed the course of history and touched the lives of thousands of families and communities. It is nine years since ETA put an end to violence and two years since it disbanded. But the process remains incomplete with over 230 politically motivated prisoners still in detention.

We know from international experience that no peace process works without the prisoner issue being dealt with. The International Conference to Promote the Resolution of the Conflict in the Basque Country, led by prominent international figures, including Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Bertie Ahern, Jonathan Powell and Gerry Adams, called upon the Spanish and French governments to find a solution to this issue (Aiete 2011). This is yet to happen. As a result, the process remains incomplete. The conflict remains unresolved. Relationships remain broken, and a durable sustainable political settlement is yet to be found.

Now the process and all of humanity face the new challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called the “gravest test since the founding of this organization”, and he has made a global call for peace.and to “put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” The Observatoire International des Prisons, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment have said that Covid-19 represents a profound threat for those in prison. They have all recommended special measures to be taken in order to minimise risks and guarantee full rights of the detainees.

Coronavirus outbreaks in prisons harm not only inmates. Safer prisons mean that we also have safer communities. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that “It is vital that governments should address the situation of detained people” adding that “Authorities should examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders.” Dunja Mijatovice Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe has urged “all member states to make use of all available alternatives to detention whenever possible and without discrimination”.

We strongly believe that it is time for immediate humanitarian action in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules agreed to by the governments of Spain and France. We do not have the luxury of time. This virus really shows us how interconnected we all are, though some communities, like those in care homes, those in prisons and on naval ships are more at risk than others. So, if we want to protect our incarcerated population and make progress in the Basque peace process, bolder measures have to be taken.

We urgently ask the French and Spanish governments to take the following steps:

1. For the immediate release of those Basque prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, including those who are over 60 years old and those that suffer with prior conditions and serious illnesses; and

2. For the release of those prisoners that have served three-quarters of their sentence or are eligible for parole, as they pose no risk of relapse, given that ETA disbanded two years ago.

We recognise that to release a prisoner before he or she has completed their full sentence is a significant decision. Such a move is challenging in any judicial system and will cause distress to victims and their families. However, in the context of the pandemic we are facing, and to ensure as far as possible the safety of staff and the whole of the prison population, and in the interest of peace, it is, we believe, an appropriate and reasonable step.

Recognising the basic humanity and dignity of all of us is important. There is no doubt what Nelson Mandela would have done. Now is the time, now is their time.

Berghof Foundation, Germany; PCdoB, Partido Comunista do Brasil, Brasil; ELDH, European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights; CRED, Centro di ricerca ed elaborazione per la democrazia, Italy; IADL/AIJD, International Association of Democratic Lawyers and 98 others


1. Luis Alberto Albán Urbano, Colombia, Member of Parliament;

2. Carlos Alberto Carreño Marín, Colombia, Member of Parliament;

3. Lord Alderdice, United Kingdom, Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists;

4. Rafael Alegria, Honduras, Former Member of Parliament; former coordinator Via Campesina;

5. Miguel Álvarez Gándara, México, President of SERAPAZ, National Prize of Human Rights 2017;

6. Oscar Andrade, Uruguay, Senator;

7. Paavo Arhinmäki, Finland, Member of Parliament; ;

8. Rubén Berríos Martínez, Puerto Rico, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Honorary President of the Socialist International; Vicepresident of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America COPPPAL

9. Professor Bill Bowring, United Kingdom, Barrister, Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences; Director of the LLM/MA in Human Rights, Birkbeck College, University of London

10. David Brotherton, USA, Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; City University of New York

11. Daniel Caggiani, Uruguay, Member of Parliament; Vicepresident of the Parlasur (Mercosur Parliament)

12. Rosa Mireya Cárdenas, Ecuador, Member of the Parlamento Andino; former viceminister for Justice

13. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, México, former Head of Government of Mexico City and a founder of the Party of the Democratic Revolution.; President of Fundación para la Democracia, Honorary President of the Socialist International

14. Andy Carl, United Kingdom, Independent Peacebuilding Adviser;

15. Pablo Catacumbo, Colombia, Senator;

16. Iván Cepeda, Colombia, Senador de la República de Colombia;

17. Vladimir Cerrón Rojas, Peru, Secretary General of Peru Libre;

18. Jonathan Cohen, United Kingdom, Executive Director; Conciliation Resources

19. Piedad Córdoba, Colombia, Lawyer; Former Senator

20. Nora Cortiñas, Argentina, Co-founder Madres de Plaza de Mayo-línea fundadora;

21. Professor Andrew Coyle PhD, United Kingdom, Fellow of King’s College London; Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies, University of London

22. Seán Crowe TD, Ireland, Teachta Dála (Member of Parliament) for the Dublin South-West constituency;

23. Michael Culbert, Ireland, Director of Coiste na nIarchimí ;

24. Brian Currin, South Africa, South African Lawyer;

25. Meral Danis Bestas, Kurdistan, MP, Deputy Chair of HDP’s Parliamentary Group;

26. Michael Ryan Davis, USA, Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing; University of California; Riverside

27. Dr. Diether Dehm, Germany, Mitglied des Bundestages; Member of the Bundestag

28. Mark Demesmaeker, Belgium, Senator, member of the OSCE parliamentary assembly;

29. Nadia Diaz, El Salvador, Member of Parliament;

30. Véronique Dudouet, Germany, Senior Research Advisor;

31. Luís Fazenda, Portugal, Secretary of International Relations, Bloco de Esquerda; Former Member of Parliament

32. Professor Carlos Fazio, México, Faculty of Political and Social Science Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM); writer, journalist

33. Jan Fermon, Belgium, Lawyer specialized in international (criminal) law; Secretary General International Association of Democratic Lawyers

34. Professor Firoz Cachalia, South Africa, University of Witwatersand; Chairman of Mothlante Foundation

35. Dr Simon Fisher, United Kingdom, Conflict Transformation Specialist, Oxford Brookes University;

36. Amina Frense, South Africa, South African Journalist;

37. Lilian Galán, Uruguay, Member of Parliament;

38. Julian Gallo Cubillos, Colombia, Senator;

39. Johan Galtung, Norway, Founder; Transcend;

40. Rev. Harold Good, Ireland, Former President of the Methodist Church;

41. Hugo Gutiérrez Gálvez, Chile, Member of Parliament; Human Rights Lawyer

42. Chris Hazzard MP, Ireland, MP for South Down;

43. Verónica Heredia, Argentina, Human rights Lawyer;

44. Jens Holm, Sweden, MP Swedish Parliament;

45. Andrej Hunko, Germany, Mitglied des Bundestages; Member of the Bundestag

46. Pedro Irigoin, Uruguay, Member of Parliament;

47. Vicenta Jerónimo Jimenez, Guatemala, Member of Parliament;

48. Omar de Jesús Restrepo, Colombia, Member of Parliament;

49. James Jordan, USA, Alliance for Global Justice;

50. Christian Juhl, Denmark, Member of Parliament; Trade Unionist

51. Ronnie Kasrils, South Africa, Former South African Intelligence Minister;

52. Gerry Kelly MLA, Ireland, Member of the Legislative Assembly , Stormont;

53. Avila Klimurray, Northern Ireland, Peace Activist; ;

54. Dr. Sara Koopman, USA, School of Peace and Conflict Studies, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio (US);

55. Emma Leslie, Cambodia, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia ; Executive Director

56. Criselda Lobo (Sandra Ramírez), Colombia, Senator;

57. Dr Gilberto López y Rivas, México, Research Professor Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia;

58. María de Lourdes Santiago, Puerto Rico, Vicepresident of the Puerto Rican Independence Party,;

59. Kenny MacAskill MP, Scotland, MP for East Lothian; Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, 2007-2014

60. José Manuel Pureza, Portugal, Member of Parliament;

61. Verónica Mato, Uruguay, Member of Parliament;

62. Robert McBride, South Africa, MK veteran and former Political Prisoner;

63. Dr Erin McCandless, South Africa, Associate Professor, School of Governance University of Witwatersrand, South Africa; Research Director, Forging Resilient Social Contracts Co-Founder and Editor of Books, Journal of Peacebuilding and Development

64. Christopher Mitchell, USA, Emeritus Professor of Conflict Research,; School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution, George Mason University

65. Hugo Moldiz, Bolivia, Intellectual, coordinator of the Bolivian Chapter of the Intelectuals and Artist Network in defense of Humanity;

66. Saruhan Oluc, Kurdistan, MP, Deputy Chair of HDP’s Parliamentary Group;

67. Hisyar Ozsoy, Kurdistan, MP, HDP’s Co-spokesperson for Foreign Affairs;

68. Prof. John Packer, Canada, Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution; Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa

69. Remy Pagani, Switzerland, Former mayor of Geneva;

70. Aziz Pahad, South Africa, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs;

71. Cirilo Perez, Guatemala, Secretary General MLP;

72. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Argentina, Writer, 1980 Nobel Peace Prize;

73. Olivier Peter, Switzerland, Human rights Lawyer;

74. Isabel Pires, Portugal, Member of Parliament;

75. Tony Platt, USA, Distinguished Affiliated Scholar,; Center for the Study of Law & Society University of California, Berkeley, California

76. Jairo Reinaldo Cala, Colombia, Member of Parliament;

77. Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, México, Human Right Lawyer;

78. Carlos Alberto Rozanski, Argentina, Former Judge ot the Argentinian Federal Chamber, Founding Member of Foro Para la Justicia Democrática;

79. Alejandro Sánchez, Uruguay, Senator;

80. Victoria Sandino, Simanca Herrera, Colombia, Senator;

81. Jussi Saramo, Finland, Member of Parliament; ;

82. Dr. Lisa Schirch, USA, North American Research Director The Toda Peace Institute; Instructor, Eastern Mennonite University USA

83. Chris Spies, South Africa, Founder; Unyoke Foundation;

84. G.C. Spivak, India, Educator;

85. Håkan Svenneling, Sweden, Member of Parliament; Spokesperson for foreign affairs;

86. Steve Tombs, United Kingdom, Professor of Criminology; Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences School of Social Sciences & Global Studies Social Policy & Criminology Open University

87. Humberto Tumini, Argentina, President of the Freemen of the South Movement;

88. Clara Tur, Portugal, coordenadora da ANC (Asemblea Nacional Catalana) Portugal;

89. Feleknas Uca, Kurdistan, MP, HDP’s Co-spokesperson for Foreign Affairs;

90. Nicolas Viera, Uruguay, Member of Parliament;

91. Luxshi Vimalarajah, Germany, Programme Director | Mediation and Dialogue Support Programme; Berghof Foundation

92. David Whyte, United Kingdom, Professor of Socio-legal Studies; Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Liverpool

93. Oliver Wils, Germany, Acting Director Berghof Foundation;

94. Marie-Joëlle Zahar, Canada, Professor Political Science Université de Montréal; Director Research Network on Peace Operations, Centre for International Studies and Research

95. Josetxo Zaldua, México, Chief Editor; Diario La Jornada

96. Manuel Zelaya, Honduras, Former President of Honduras;

97. Jean Ziegler, Switzerland, sociologist, Emeritus professor University of Geneva

98. Israel Zuñiga, Colombia, Senator


1. Berghof Foundation, Germany;

2. PCdoB, Partido Comunista do Brasil, Brasil;

3. ELDH, European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights;

4. CRED, Centro di ricerca ed elaborazione per la democrazia, Italy;

5. IADL/AIJD, International Association of Democratic Lawyers