Not Wanting to Point to Anyone or Anything*


Javier Zarzalejos, Secretary-General of FAES Foundation

* This article has been previously published by the author in El Correo (27-10-2013).

Congress of Deputies. November 12, 1991. Consideration of the bill submitted by the PP for the full serving of sentences by terrorists and drug-traffickers.


I wouldn't want to point to anyone or anything in particular. But in these times of confused memory and widespread disqualification it would be convenient to make a minimum recalling effort to distinguish, from our common condition as fallible beings, the errors made by each of us, which are not necessarily shared. I'm talking about the controversy surrounding the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights which has overturned the application of the "Parot doctrine" to the ETA member Inés del Río.

The episode takes place on November 12, 1991. Plenary session of the Congress of Deputies. On the agenda, the consideration of the bill presented by the Popular Party on the amendment of Articles 98, 98 bis, 99 and 100 of the Criminal Code and related provisions of the Prisons Act. Record of proceedings.

Spokesman of the Popular Party, Mr. de Rato Figaredo: "Mr. President, members of this House, the Popular Parliamentary Group is submitting, for the fourth time, an initiative for the consideration of this House to make terrorists and drug traffickers serve the full penalties to which they are condemned (...) The Popular Party raised this initiative, for the first time in September 1986, right after that year's June general elections, and included it in its election manifesto of 1986 and 1989 (...) The organic bill we are presenting for your consideration today,–and which I hope will get the support of the House–intends to exclude those convicted for crimes of terrorism and drug trafficking from sentence reduction benefits and exit permits referred to in the legislation. Specifically, ensuring the full execution of sentences by the deletion, in both cases, of paroles and remissions of penalty by work, which I previously mentioned from a report by the Attorney General of the State and preventing possible escape by deleting the temporary exit permit."

Mr. Olabarría Muñoz: "Mr. de Rato, this is the fourth time that your Parliamentary Group submits a proposition of this kind, and it will be the fourth time that my group will vote no to it (...) At this moment, we understand that discussing suppositions such as those contained in this bill is not relevant (...) We understand that those measures are of dubious constitutionality (...) We understand that a whole group cannot be condemned in such an a priori way, but instead should be considered subsequently and case by case".

Mr. Sartorius Álvarez de las Asturias Bohorques (IU-Initiative for Catalonia): "We must be relentless in the fight against terrorism and large drug-trafficking and there is nothing more contrary to this principle of relentlessness that the criterion of emotion (...) The least relentless thing in the fight against terrorism and large drug-trafficking is dividing the House on this issue: that's the least relentless thing that can be done (...) The Basque Nationalist Party's opinion on terrorism seems relevant to me, as well as that of the Basque Government, which has already made some statements on this issue saying that it does not consider this convenient".

Mr. Rodriguez Zapatero for the Socialist Group: "The proposition, in our view, has a very poor legislative technique (...) Such a debate on prison benefits that can be determined, restrictions that can be set, specific assumptions from the point of view of criminal policy, it would be a downright reactionary policy to establish general clauses, regardless of subjective and individual conditions (...) this is not in any way an absolutely imperative and urgent instrument for the fight against terrorism (...) The obvious dispersion regarding the positions of the different parliamentary groups which, in an obviously important issue like this one, should make the groups who have held this position recapitulate, seems essential for the Socialist Group's position as not favourable to the consideration of this bill".

Mr. de Rato Figaredo in his reply to Rodriguez Zapatero: "What I say to your group and the Government–absent–is that you're failing to comply with a political commitment, that that political commitment has a cost, and that cost is that criminals, drug traffickers and terrorists of 1991 know that they are going to be able to benefit from grace measures that reduce sentences by 50% as the Attorney General of the State, not us, also says. That's the whole discussion (...) Maybe what we propose is not the ultimate solution, but the only way that this House really has–and excuse the expression–to make drug traffickers and terrorists know that we take this seriously, is to make laws, not statements".

CiU expressed its support for the consideration of the proposal with an upright statement by its spokesman, the MP Trias Bes. In a not-at-all-evasive argument he reiterated his criticism to the government for not presenting the draft Criminal Code to which it systematically referred to avoid the discussion of measures proposed by the PP. It was not until 1995 that the remission of penalties for work ended with the so-called "Criminal Code of Democracy," which came into force in May 1996, 79 murders after this parliamentary debate. Only in 2003 could the principle of the full enforcement of penalties be introduced for the most serious crimes.