Spanish fisherman

Iceland revokes law allowing citizens to kill Basques

Authorities in Iceland have revoked a 400-year-old law that allowed citizens to kill Basques on sight.

For the past four centuries, people in Iceland have been permitted to kill anyone from the Basque region of northern Spain and southern France should they step foot on the North Atlantic island.

However, last week authorities decided it was finally time to abolish a law that resulted in the killing of 32 Basque whalers 400 years ago.

Back in the summer of 1615, three Basque whaling ships entered an Icelandic fjord after coming to an agreement with Icelanders; however, on their departure they were shipwrecked in a gale. The West Fjords commissioner at the time, Ari Magnusson of Ogur, then demanded that the survivors were hunted down and killed after stories they had become entangled in a bitter dispute with locals.

In October that year, 32 Basque whalers were killed by Icelanders in what remains the only recorded mass murder in the country.

But on 22 April this year, the West Fjords district commissioner Jonas Gudmundsson officially revoked the law at a special event to commemorate the ‘Slaying of the Spaniards’, joking that it was now safe for people from the Basque region to travel to Iceland. He explained that repealing the order was mainly for “fun” because it had obviously not been carried out for many years.

Among the attendees at the event were the Icelandic Minister of Education and Culture Illugi Gunnarsson and the Basque Gipuzkoa Governor Martin Garitanoand.

Meanwhile, Basques in Spain praised Iceland for the move, with MP Jon Inarritu from the Basque pro-independence party Amaiur saying the ceremony marked a public homage to those that were killed all those years ago.