The article "Combating the Terrorism of ETA with the Penal Model" by Mariángeles Catalina Benavente and Teresa Manso Porto (Crime, Law and Social Change, October 2013) is a discussion of Spain's experience in combating its main terrorist organization: Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, translated as Basque Homeland and Liberty, and commonly known by its Spanish initials, ETA. ETA was formed in 1959 by Basque militants seeking independence for that region of Spain that runs from the northern part of the country to the border region with France. Spain, as with most countries, is comprised of multiple ethnicities held together as a unified state either by mutual consent or, as often, by force. In the case of many members of the Basque nation, though by no means all of them, their region's incorporation into the nation of Spain represents an illegitimate usurpation of their history as an independent nation. Since its founding, and up to recent years—ETA is largely disbanded following protracted negotiations with the Spanish government—this Basque nationalist organization has been the principle source of terrorism inside Spain.
A probable reason this article was required to be read by students is because it makes the point many (mainly on the left side of America's political spectrum) in politics, academia and civil rights organizations have made about the use of military tribunals and extrajudicial incarceration at prisons such as the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the war against al Qaeda. Guantanamo Bay was chosen as a site for detention of captured terrorists because it lies physically outside of the United States yet is controlled solely by the United States and, consequently, exists in a judicial netherworld. Proponents of this arrangement have long argued that many terrorists are too dangerous to bring to the United States for trial and incarceration. More importantly, however, is the argument that terrorists captured in foreign countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and other countries and regions with questionable judicial systems do not deserve the rights and privileges afforded American citizens under the Constitution of the United States.
"Combating the Terrorism of ETA with the Penal Model" is intended as a refutation of the argument that armed militants captured abroad, especially in war zones, should be tried in civilian courts like "common" criminals. Spain, like the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, used a military tribunal system for trying captured ETA terrorists while the country was under the control of the fascist regime of the late General Francisco Franco. After Franco's death in 1975, Spain began a movement away from authoritarianism and towards democracy. Today, it is a full-fledged democracy, although one that continues to maintain a monarchy similar to Great Britain. Part of the transition towards democratization was the implementation of a civilian judicial system for use against all those suspected of transgressing Spanish law. This transition included the scrapping of the military tribunals. Suspected terrorists are now tried in criminal courts.
The article provides a history of this transition and emphasizes the successes the Spanish have enjoyed in resolving the problem of militant Basque separatism.