Letter: Tyrants in the dock

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The arrest of General Augusto Pinochet by the British police on a Spanish warrant of extradition is to be applauded. I share your views (Leading article, 19 October) that the Spanish judge and the British authorities deserve commendation. I also believe however that Spanish victims and their relatives who have pursued this case doggedly deserve equal commendation.

Foreign victims of this and other dictators should borrow a leaf from the approach of the Spanish victims in seeking redress in their own courts. This will have one practical consequence of keeping these dictators in their own countries. Some, once out of power, prefer the safety of exile to facing justice in their own countries, while others would like the freedom to travel at will to foreign countries. Those in the first category will then face justice wherever they are found. Those in the second category ( like Pinochet) will at least know that they are international pariahs condemned to living the rest of their miserable lives in the countries they have ruined.

I would also call for an extension of this Pinochet precedent to one other crucial area. Some Third World countries with heavy international debt also have ex-presidents with billions in their foreign accounts. Perhaps, foreign companies and foreign countries which are owed these debts should declare themselves economic victims of these ex-presidents and seek restitution by attaching the assets held overseas by these ex- presidents.

Perhaps, now that most of Europe will be ruled by left-of-centre governments which are usually associated with capitalism with a human conscience, the environment may be right for this approach to human rights and the debt burden.


Impington, Cambridgeshire

The writer was Foreign Minister of Nigeria, 1985-1987