Zoomrights is the name of the Observatory on the infringement of Human Rights by terrorist violence which was launched in 2011 by the Fernando Buesa Foundation and Bakeaz. Until the end of 2012, Zoomrights carried out its work by compiling testimonies of victims of terrorism but various circumstances, including the disappearance of Bakeaz brought its activities to a standstill.  However, with the arrival of 2015, the Fernando Buesa Foundation has seen the need to revive this project and resumes the collection and publication of new testimonies from people who have suffered the consequences of terrorist violence which are essential in shaping a collective memory.

The reason for the observatory

The Fernando Buesa Foundation and Bakeaz have spent years, since before 2011, analysing the persistence of ETA’s terrorist actions in the form of intimidation, financial extortion and killing with growing concern. Therefore, Zoomrights was devised during the period when ETA had decreased its activity considerably with respect to previous years and soon after the definitive end of the group’s armed activity was made known. However, even then certain sectors of Basque society still justified violent actions as a method of achieving political goals, as the latest institutional reports gathered by this Observatory show (Ararteko 2009, Basque Youth Observatory, 2011).

This attitude of part of our society has been the standard pattern for the almost fifty years that ETA has been perpetrating crimes, stalking, isolating and limiting the individual rights of thousands of citizens in the Basque Country and Navarre.

Those of us who work in the field of education for peace believe that this misleading situation has been orchestrated by certain social agents and bodies that are close to the so-called radical Basque nationalism in order to conceal the true horror caused by a small – but lethal – sector of Basque society. And we also believe that it must be made known to European and international bodies working in this field in order to promote a fair and impartial, although not neutral, condemnation of the actions of ETA and other terrorist groups, as a tribute to the memory and recognition of their victims, as mandated by Law 4/2008 on the Recognition and Redress of Victims of Terrorism.

Collecting the testimonies of all victims of terrorist violence implies compiling their stories to contribute to the shaping of a collective, plural and integrating memory, in spite of the complexity of reaching a consensus, that should also include the memory of other victims in our country in recent decades – even those who have also been perpetrators – whose rights have been seriously infringed.

Memory is the social and political recognition of what has happened, both nationally and internationally; recognising the injustice and suffering endured by victims of terrorism and verifying the murders, kidnappings, threats, extortion, the injuries suffered by so many innocent people.

This Observatory aims to be an initial contribution, the embroy of the construction of that collective memory in the Basque Country. We aim to provide the international community with an unbiased and clear view of what has happened in the Basque Country, to help build a fully democratic coexistence based on freedom and integration

Objectives of the observatory

We base our actions on a number of key principles and ideas in favour of peace, human rights and the victims of terrorism, and in favour of all educational and social aspects:

  • Separate the solution of the terrorist violence issue completely from the solution of the political identity conflict.
  • Understand the devastating effect of the political culture of radical Basque nationalism and its level of influence on daily political actions.
  • Weaken the foundations of cultural and philosophical relativism and its educational counterpart, the neutrality of the teacher.
  • Socially and politically de-legitimise terrorism.
  • Approach the perspective of the victims with all its consequences.

In particular, the observatory on terrorist violence in the Basque Country relates to the above principles as it seeks to assist in ensuring justice, recognition and solidarity with the victims of terrorism by recording, assessing, disseminating and analysing the reality of victimisation. It also relates to the interest of and effort to assist in the social and political de-legitimisation of terrorism.

Among the objectives of the observatory on terrorist violence in the Basque Country, we can highlight the following:

  • Obtain fair knowledge of the reality of victimisation by recording, as accurately as possible, the scope of terrorist violence and the victims it produces.
  • Evaluate the facts connected with victimisation, based on human rights standards, denouncing any infringement of the said rights.
  • Communicate any information gathered to the media and to national and international human rights organisations with a view to fulfilling our duty of veracity towards the victims.
  • Fulfil the objectives stated above through the development of analyses that the reality observed requires.

The observatory’s guiding principles and assumptions

Given the complexity of the issues addressed and the manipulations based on partisan interests and immoral solidarity that these issues usually arouse, the Fernando Buesa Foundation and Bakeaz decided that the observatory should be based on a Decalogue of guiding principles and assumptions:

1.    Principle of objectivity.
2.    Principle of non-neutrality.
3.    Principle of impartiality.
4.    Principle of non-acceptance.
5.    Pre-partisan public space.
6.    Observation.
7.    Universal moral concept.
8.    Victims and aggressors-victims.
9.    Records, assessment, dissemination and analysis.
10.About, for and with the victims of terrorism.

1. Principle of objectivity

One of the basic conditions required to provide justice, recognition and solidarity with the victims, is to become familiar with the reality of victimisation. In the case of terrorist violence in the Basque Country this is a difficult task: first, due to the very nature of the phenomenon, which presents, together with clearly objectionable aspects, some that are not so easily registered by means of physical indicators; secondly, because it is subject to the temptation of manipulation and spurious segregations based on partisan interests and immoral solidarity. In these circumstances, we consider it necessary to establish an observatory, like the one presented here, that, based on the strict criteria governing human rights and through a careful and honest interpretation of the facts, will register, as accurately as possible, the scope of this violence and the victims it produces.

2. Principle of non-neutrality

The observatory itself is not governed by the principle of neutrality, in the sense that it is by no means neutral to the terrorist violence and the victims that violence creates. Conversely, it is based on the unequivocal moral and political condemnation of such violence that causes the disruption of the most basic human rights (life, physical and psychological integrity, non-coercion of freedom …), without accepting any argument that may attempt to justify it. Consequently, its outlook is clearly in favour of the victims of terrorism; considering the observatory itself as an expression of that outlook, as a contribution to the attainment of the truth, justice, memory, recognition, compensation they are owed.

3. Principle of impartiality

This observatory is governed by the principle of impartiality. Through its scrutiny of acts of violence and the corresponding allocation of responsibilities, it intends to be strictly impartial in relation to all legitimate party options expressed within the social context in which terrorist violence occurs, for example, those relating to identities, and in relation to all positions of power, concerning the regional government and central government, held by the parties involved. Consequently, it will be irrelevant for the observatory which party or what position of power the findings of the acts of violent and the relevant lawsuits lodged may benefit or harm politically.

4. Principle of non-acceptance

The above-stated impartiality and non-neutrality can be seen in the fact that all victims of terrorism, regardless of the agents of violence that have victimized them and the partisan options to which they belong, will be covered. If, at any given time any distinction between victims is made – as will be explained below – it will be due to the pre-partisan conduct of the victims themselves but this will not involve denying them their status as such.

5. Pre-partisan public space

By synthesizing impartiality and neutrality, one can say that the observatory has positioned itself in a pre-partisan public space. In this sense it is not neutral, while it still adheres to the principle of impartiality with respect to a partisan environment.

6. Observation

The area under examination is, by definition, that involving terrorist violence. We must recognize that there are certain difficulties when specifying what is meant by this. In principle, we are referring to violence: a) that affects the victim’s life and physical and psychological integrity – in its broadest sense, b) that is planned and executed in a manner to generate fear – terror – in relevant sectors of the citizenship; c) that pursues a political objective, used as to provide unfounded justification, d) that is promoted and executed by an organisation – albeit elementary – based on a strategy. The disagreement stems mainly from the specification of the fourth feature: for some people, terrorism only exists in the case of organisations that fight the State, while others consider that it can also exist within the State. This observatory has chosen to follow the broadest definition, including, in our scope of interest, all politically motivated violence generated in and from the Basque Country, whether it is all considered terrorist violence or whether a distinction is made between: 1) terrorist violence perpetrated by anti-state bands (ETA and its branches), or state-supported bands, such as the GAL – abolished at present, thankfully – whose violence is expressed in the form of bombings, kidnappings, extortion and threats; and 2) politically motivated violence that may involve state institutions or officials, such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture or ill-treatment and impunity for the aggressors.

7. Universal moral concept

In order to fully understand the above, it is crucial to emphasize that the concepts of violence and victims adopted by this observatory is a universal moral concept. Under this approach, we speak of violence as the use of illegitimate force against another person as it violates that person’s rights as a human being. And we do not refer to all those who suffer when we speak of victims, but to those who suffer unfairly through human intervention or inhibition, implying a violation of their status as subjects of dignity. This means, in particular, that when the state exercises its legitimate coercive force – consistent with human rights – through law enforcement mechanisms against those who perpetrate terrorist violence, it not only does not engage in terrorist violence but fulfils a duty imposed on behalf of the public. Consequently, those targeted by the said force should not be considered victims.

8. Victims and aggressors-victims

As part of the observatory’s mission, mentioned above, of recording, as far as possible, all victims of terrorism, we find those who are victims of this violence, and those who, either previously or at a later date, in addition to being victims have also acted as perpetrators. This disturbing circumstance should not prevent recognising the latter their status as victims, with consequences in relation to justice and compensation arising therefrom. But neither, on the other hand, can the status of perpetrator be ignored, with the consequent allocation of liability. It is the task of an observatory that aspires to the truth to record their conflicting condition. In the logic of an observatory such as this, which is committed to the victims against the violent, the way of positively solving this conflict lies in establishing an effective distance, by the victim-offenders, from what made them killers and expressing their sincere and coherent sorrow for the harm caused to their victims. Only then will their status as victims, from a personal point of view, acquire authenticity and moral authority.

9. Records, assessment, dissemination and analysis

The primary task of this observatory, like that of any other, is to record the facts within its field of interest. But from the statements above, a number of other tasks can also be derived. First of all, the assessment of those facts, based on human rights standards, denouncing any infringement of the said rights. Then, the dissemination of information to the media and to human rights organisations in fulfilment of our duty towards truth in relation to the victims, a pre-condition for their other rights. But, furthermore, convinced that only with an adequate reflection based on the said descriptions and assessments will everything that is at stake be perceived, the observatory will complete the above-mentioned objectives by analysing the real situation.

10. About, for and with the victims of terrorism

In forming this observatory as a service to victims, we shall try to perform our functions in a non-passive manner – i.e. treating victims as people who are “observed” with a view to being assisted and recognised – but incorporating them significantly and within the above-mentioned pre-partisan space until they become part of the actual development of the observatory. It is not therefore merely an observatory aboutfor the victims, but especially an observatory that is with the victims of terrorism. victims, not even, but also, for the victims, but especially an observatory that is with the victims of terrorism.