CHILEAN PUBLIC opinion has realised, during these days in which Pinochet has been deprived of his freedom, the extreme levels of politicisation and disinformation that characterise the European version of national events in the last quarter of a century. Given the gross historical inexactitudes that have been flying around, we suppose that political considerations will prevail over juridical ones. The British judges have shown surprising courage and independence. The court ruling has helped to calm the country and is a first step towards putting behind us an episode that has wounded the dignity of many Chileans.
IT IS highly desirable that murderous dictators should be brought to trial. But in doing so, legal immunities must be scrupulously honoured, otherwise, the process will be widely seen to be motivated by political vengeance. The proposed international criminal court could avoid this difficulty. That court is not likely to be fully established in time for General Pinochet. But if this visit to Britain has forced an old man to review his crimes, that will be a kind of justice in this world - as he moves inexorably towards the next.
THE DOCTRINE that the High Court in London has invented for this occasion is extremely dangerous. By adopting it, the UK could become a paradise for all deposed dictators. According to this, not even Hitler could have been tried. Nor Pol Pot. If this absurd doctrine is not rejected by the House of Lords, anyone who became head of state and government by whatever means, even - as in Pinochet's case - by blood and fire, would enjoy for the rest of his days immunity in the UK, even though he was guilty of robbery, torture and mass murder. Let's not make the mistake of blaming the British Government. Mr Blair's cabinet has acted with scrupulous correctness, at least up to now. In Great Britain, as in Spain, the Executive Power cannot - must not - invade the terrain of the Juridical Power.
BRITAIN WILL not suffer much, maybe. But what about Chile? Its armed forces have publicly backed the government - against both the arrest in London and any idea of disloyalty at home. But social rifts are growing - and with them, in a few short days, the risk to Chile's hard-won international reputation as a moderate and calm, solid and stable, democratic country.
THE BRITISH court ruling does not mean the end of the legal process that threatens to extradite Pinochet to Spain. But evidently it represents a decisive legal victory for Pinochet - it was what he had hoped for. It seems to close the case. It is not difficult to conclude, despite the legal verdict, that Pinochet, with his detention in London, has been morally condemned at an international level. European countries have been queuing up in recent days to condemn him. Pinochet may have won the legal battle, but morally he has not escaped scot-free. Nothing will be the same again, not for Chile, nor for dictators. The former dictator will not be tried in Chile, where he is protected by the military, but he will never again be able to travel the world freely.
MANY HEADS and former heads of state accused of various crimes will now sleep more soundly. The ruling has extracted the governments of both Spain and Britain from a tight corner, and probably helped avoid problems in Chile. But how can we forget his crimes and leave his victims without redress?Reuse content