Letter: Tyrants beware

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Sir: As you rightly point out in your editorial (25 March), if Jack Straw fails to extradite General Pinochet, tyrants around the world will understand that Western governments lack the political will to back up their own laws.

May I add that a golden opportunity would also be missed to send a strong message not only to individual tyrants, but also to states which have institutionalised torture and use it regularly as a standard procedure.

Israel is an obvious example of the kind of state I have in mind. There, torture is sanctioned by the courts and enshrined in law as "moderate physical pressure" (the treatment meted out to routine suspects) and "heightened physical pressure" (for dealing with bigger fish).

If high officials of the Israeli government, or governments of other guilty countries, realise that they are liable for prosecution under British law for barbarities carried out by their states, it is reasonable to expect that they will consider taking steps to outlaw legalised torture. Otherwise, they will never be able to feel safe when they visit this country, even when they are here on official business with the approval of the British government.


Manningtree, Essex