Verdicts on Jack Straw's decision to allow extradition proceedings against the former Chilean head of state to continue in the courts
The Washington Post
A ROGUE Spanish judge is using "international law" to trample Chilean sovereignty and overrule Chile's functioning judiciary, its democratically elected government and the decision of its people to choose national reconciliation over revenge. And the advocates of the International Criminal Court are cheering him along. (Jesse Helm)
STRAW'S RULING confirms that the ultimate resolution of the case was always in the hands of the British Labour Government, which has, in an act of enormous political indifference to the basic legal principles stated by our foreign ministry, sought to ignore the fact that Chile is a sovereign and independent country. However, the minister can at any moment take political factors into account and decree the end of the extradition process, thus ending the gravest situation that Chilean juridical sovereignty has had to face in the present century.
HOME SECRETARY Jack Straw made the wrong decision yesterday - giving in to the prejudices of 1970s student rabble-rousers. But the real villains are the Foreign Office. They told Pinochet that he would be welcome to receive medical treatment in Britain. That was like luring a fly into a spider's web.
DIFFICULT TO find a more appropriate commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights than the British Home Secretary's decision to allow his country's courts to process Spain's request for the extradition of Augusto Pinochet. Since 16 October, when the former dictator was detained in London, the Pinochet case has not only aroused international passions and unleashed huge controversy but taken on a direction and speed that few would have dared predict. London and Madrid have overcome powerful pressure to shelve action on this delicate matter... The Pinochet affair is doing more for international law than decades of conventions ignored by signatory governments.
PINOCHET'S DETENTION in Britain under these circumstances for extradition hearings does nothing to advance this Government's "moral foreign policy". Rather, it highlights the Government's penchant for hypocrisy. To take the moral high road with Pinochet is anything but courageous - it is an insult to the relatives of those who have been murdered to advance the cause of Mr Adams and his friends in Northern Ireland. These people have been asked to swallow the misery and injustice they have suffered. The British government, by contrast, says it would be "gut-wrenching" to ask the victims of Pinochet in Chile to do the same. Yesterday was not a good day for British justice, whatever it may do for the international kind.
The Daily Telegraph
THE CASE will strain relations with Chile to breaking point, if not beyond. And, far from strengthening or clarifying international law, it could easily open up an international free-for-all, in which all sorts of judges and governments will feel able to apply for the arrest of a wide range of former leaders to whom they may have taken a dislike. The whole thing is a ghastly mess and one which Mr Straw should have done everything he could to avoid, while he still had the chance.
It is of vital importance for all victims of any dictatorships that the trial takes place. It inspires hope in all of us. It is of interest to thevictims because it must lead to one immense trial. In France at the moment all charges placed by French or Chilean victims of assasination and torture are on hold. French legislation is much less progressive than that of the Spanish. For the sake of all the victims, French or otherwise, this judicial debate has to take place.
STRAW AND his Government have shown political courage in taking a decision that means that Pinochet will not be able to leave Britain for a long time. However much the Chilean government protests, no one can do anything for Pinochet. He must be cursing the day he left for the London clinic and tea with Lady Thatcher.
CARE IN THE COMMUNITY
Opinions on the Health Secretary's plans for
changes in the treatment of the mentally ill
THE REFORMS announced by Frank Dobson marked a sensible compromise between flawed modern ideals and outmoded institutionalisation. In the wake of such high profile crimes as the murder of Lin Russell and her daughter Megan by a violent psychopath, the public will be quick to applaud the Government's latest initiative. But an emphasis on crime must not be allowed to add to the social stigma already suffered by the mentally ill. Home Office reports suggest that the number of murders committed by the insane has not increased over the past 20 years. A reasoned perspective must be maintained. Care in the community needs public provision and public compassion. Both have been allowed to fall too low.
BACK IN 1960, there were 160,000 beds for psychiatric patients. Large Victorian asylums held mental patients under lock and key. For years, the received wisdom was that this was unsatisfactory and that the most sensible way of treating the mentally ill was in the community. Frank Dobson declared that Care in the Community has failed and should be congratulated for biting the bullet.
Although most attention will be focused on his plans to ensure that the dangerously ill will no longer be able to roam the streets, he also revealed a sensible series of measures designed to offer proper care to other mentally ill patients, including an increase in beds, an expansion in round the clock nursing care, and other similar proposals. No package can ever be "complete", but yesterday's measures are a sensible reform to an unsatisfactory situation.
THE REMORSELESS closure of mental hospitals and the tragic failure of Care in the Community has left these lost souls prey to the tormenting voices in their heads, and a threat, both to themselves and others. At last, after more than a decade of government dithering, and a terrible catalogue of deranged killings, we have a health secretary who does appear prepared to act.
At last, doctors will have authority to compel people who are out of their mind to take proper treatment. At last, a little more is to be spent on a marginal addition to the number of beds in mental units. The Mail salutes the policy shift. But we have to say that it is long on promises and short on cash.
FOR THE mentally ill and those caring for them, the community often proved to be alienated, fearful and hostile. Without the bricks and mortar of the hospital, professional networks became more complex to manage and sustain, and although we continued to use psychiatric institutions as a last resort, we had denigrated the value which resides in the original meaning of "asylum", a place of safety.
The answer lies in understanding the particularities of mental health policy and practice. Policy-making should be neither "top down", nor "bottom up"; neither dirigisme nor pluralism. It should be a dialogue between the policy-makers and those who know the terrain first hand, genuinely adaptive, and responsive to local knowledge and conditions. It's about trust. Trust the workers, Mr Dobson; trust the people.
MOST OF it is sensible and welcome, though it will not come cheap. On exactly how the money will be spent, and when the new powers will be introduced and what safeguards will accompany them, the Health Secretary was remarkably vague. Rarely can the Treasury have conceded a major increase in a spending programme on the basis of such sketchy details. We broadly welcome what Mr Dobson is doing, but he should get his skates on. Given the urgency of the problem, the pace at which the Government is moving seems leisurely to the point of complacency.
Views on the hunger-strike by the animal rights activist
to force the Government to establish a Royal Commission
FOR ALL the sentiment with which Britons treat their pets, popular support for a total ban on vivisection for medical purposes will never be obtained. Mr Horne's energies would have been far better directed at a thoughtful campaign urging the prompt setting up of a royal commission to minimise gratuitous suffering. Instead, through his hunger strike, he resorts to blackmail. He reveals himself to be not a martyr but a terrorist.
THE GOVERNMENT cannot be seen to cave into terrorist blackmail. In the States, support for animal rights activism declined rapidly after members of the government began to condemn extremism. Bush's Secretary of Health spoke of "animal rights terrorists who have impeded life-enhancing research". It would help enormously if Labour ministers would have the courage and honesty to say the same.
MR HORNE believes the authorities have an absolute duty to give in to his demands. This invincible self-righteousness is not only unattractive, it is downright dangerous. "All that glisters is not gold," as it says in The Merchant Of Venice. By the same token, all who claim to be working for a good cause are not necessarily compassionate. Extremists claim they must destroy, maim and kill so that the world should be made better. Regrettably, killing is sometimes necessary, as in halting the spread of Nazism. But securing an improvement in the treatment of animals requires no human sacrifice. Horne is not a martyr but a man in error, and error taken to such extremes is evil.
The Birmingham Post
HUNGER STRIKING is the worst possible form of manipulation, and the Government should resist it at all costs. It is not noble. It is not selfless. And it is no more heroic than a child having a tantrum. Labour has broken its promises to animal rights activists. Horne is on a hunger strike in protest. But he is not dying because of Labour's broken promises. He is dying because that is what he has chosen. He is responsible.
THE NATIONAL FRONT
The French press considers the recent splits
in the extreme-right political party
THE TENSION mounts a little more each day. The only way for Le Pen and Megret to resolve their quarrel is for one to get rid of the other. In the space of just a few days the extreme right has turned round and marched back down the arduous road which had originally led it out of marginality. However, we cannot yet claim to know the true extent of the shake-up. The Richter scale by which we can measure this earthquake will be the elections, which will mark the true extent of the National Front's loss of influence.
AFTER MUCH disillusionment, the ordinary voter put his faith in the National Front. The shouts of his adversaries, the cascade of denunciations, the vengeful parades, all this comforted his fidelity. We only hate what we fear. The chief of the National Front used Joan of Arc as a symbol, for her courage, her intelligence and her purity. Suddenly it was finished; the magic image exploded; the myth disappeared. The Front was not, of course, a virtuous league. Some Front politicians manoeuvred to have a good spot in the European elections. Others, convinced that the charismatic chief was ageing, tried to escort him gallantly out the door. As a result, the prince slapped at his rebellious children. Certainly, he had taught them the art of conspiracy. But he never dreamed that his own barons would turn his arms against him.
JEAN-MARIE Le Pen isn't even trying to hide his fury and his intense desire to disassociate himself from the factions. He appeals to the people of the Front. He even invokes the democracy of the ballot box. He's not far from slipping. He is going to slip. He slips.
UN DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
THE US, which has appointed itself as a defender of human rights, is itself constantly violating those rights. Federal and state laws in the US guarantee many rights. They ban all discrimination. They guarantee freedom of speech, religion, the establishment of societies and the right to a fair trial. Despite all these guarantees, violations of human rights occur there regularly. Why then is the American eye jaundiced and only sees what takes place in other countries?
Los Angeles Times
HOW DOES one celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a decade marked by genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda? Progress can be applauded in much of the world. But what about the terrible abuses that persist? Governments will always be tempted to violate rights if they feel it will help them secure or maintain power. The challenge is to encourage them to resist that temptation. What can be acclaimed is the emergence of a powerful movement to make that resistance far more likely.
WHAT PROGRESS has been made in 50 years? Scan the globe for examples of genocide, repression, torture and sheer lack of human dignity, and the answer might well be a hollow laugh. But, since 1948, human rights have entered the mainstream of international discourse. Even the harshest tyrant uses the language of rights, if only to distort its meaning. In a world where abuses are a daily problem, not a philosophical abstraction, there can be no blind spots.
Stories from around the world
AS A convenience for those who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, one can purchase reversible tableware napkins, placemats, and table runners with a Christmas motif on one side and Hanukkah motif on the other. Also for sale is a greeting card with Santa and a Hasidic rabbi standing in front of a Christmas tree and menorah, singing from a booklet marked Holiday Duets.
PET OWNER Janice Richardson says it was bad luck when she fell foul of the law. Gateshead's dog wardens saw Mrs Richardson's pet leaving its noxious calling card on a grass verge.They slapped a fine on her, and when that wasn't paid took her to court. It shows that Gateshead means business when it comes to curbing the menace of dog mess in its streets and parks.
AN INSPIRING innovation has arisen in the rapidly growing community of Fruita, where a 24-hour child care center has opened across from a nursing home to let young and old interact. The children will benefit, too, in having more adoring adults in their lives.
Quotes of the Week
"Noel Coward was the Bruce Springsteen, the Bruce Willis of his day."
Joanna Lumley (above)
"It would be dishonest to say I'm beyond ambition, but the fires of ambition are rather tepid these days."
ex-Governor of Hong Kong, on his future political plans
"Tony Blair is one of the century's great leaders, and Bald Billy is a prat."
"Dead sheep and cows are one thing, but the elephant dung was the final straw."
Ray Hutchins, artist, following his dumping of dung outside the Tate in protest at the Turner Prize award
"No taxation without respiration."
Steve Forbes, Republican presidential hopeful, on his pledge to scrap death duties
"He looked me up and down and said, `I like your big boots'."
Natalie Appleton, singer, on her encounter with
THE VIEWS OF THE WORLD
Philadelphia Daily News
`Justice for Pinochet'
La Cronica da Hoy