THE DETENTION in London of the ex-president of the Republic, ex-commander in chief of the army and Senator for Life, Augusto Pinochet, constitutes an event of extreme gravity for the country and demonstrates, as our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated, a transgression of the norms of law agreed and accepted by the world community. Let us leave aside the reasons for detaining this person in a clinic where he was recovering from a recent operation, to take part in legal proceedings conducted by Spanish judges. Worse, London has detained a Chilean senator furnished with a diplomatic passport that conferred judicial immunity, not only by virtue of being a member of the Senate of our country, but because this document testifies to the quality of his trip as a special mission of a plenipotentiary ambassador. This was granted by the Chilean government in a decree signed by the President of the Republic and communicated to the English government. Let us hope this episode ends soon in accordance with international law, to which our country has always subscribed, although sometimes with irreparably damaging effects.
IF THE former general thought he could travel to an EU country, knowing that he was wanted in Spain for crimes against humanity; if he thought he could use his illness to escape from the police, with a diplomatic passport that justified no mission whatever; if he thought that neither Garzon's legal request nor the indignation of British public opinion could affect the immunity of one who in his day enjoyed powers of life and death - well then, he miscalculated.
THE ARREST in London of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet may be gratifying to those who rightfully condemn the atrocities of his brutal regime. Unfortunately, his arrest is likely to result in less justice and rule of law in the world, not more. No one familiar with the history of Pinochet's 17-year rule can argue that he does not deserve to be made to answer for that regime's campaign of murder, torture and unjust detention following the fatal overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende.
Even Chile's ambassador to Britain says that Chile has no wish to spare Pinochet from "the wrath of the law". Also, the retired dictator is not an accredited diplomat, or a visitor to the United Kingdom on official business. He does not warrant diplomatic immunity, and even diplomats can be prosecuted for crimes as gross as torture and mass murder. But while the Spanish judge who requested Pinochet's detention may have been within his rights in seeking to question Pinochet about the murder and torture of Spanish citizens in Chile, he goes too far in expanding the potential charges to the murder of Chilean citizens, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Can any nation prosecute any person for crimes against humanity committed in any country, as the Spanish judge states? The result would be anarchy.
WHETHER SENATOR-FOR-LIFE Augusto Pinochet will have to pay for his evil deeds is not yet clear. Punishing crimes against humanity is an extremely complicated and time-consuming task. The ongoing investigations by the UN tribunals for Bosnia, in The Hague, and Rwanda, in Arusha [Tanzania], where a first sentence for genocide was only recently handed down, prove this every day. In the Pinochet case, two legal concepts collide: the immunity of someone travelling on a diplomatic passport, and the punishment of crimes against humanity, an idea which developed from World War II. In Chile, ideological opposites still divide the country.
The investigation against Pinochet launched by Spain is likely at first to deepen the divisions in Chilean society, but finally to force the nation to come to terms with the years of dictatorship.Reuse content