A Pandora's box, not a dictator's toy

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The Independent Online

This week the Chilean Supreme Court is expected to strip Augusto Pinochet of the immunity he granted himself before leaving office a decade ago. The vote will doubtless amaze Pinochet's friends over here, led by Lady Thatcher and Lord Lamont, who had hoped that by campaigning for his return to Santiago from Britain, they had saved the old tyrant from justice. Chile's Blairesque new president, Ricardo Lagos - himself once jailed under Pinochet - was delighted that a Supreme Court created by Pinochet had turned against him. "What the ruling will show is that all institutions in the country function properly, and that is the way it should be." Now Pinochet faces the unpalatable choice of facing trial for multiple murder - or having himself declared insane or demented. Meanwhile a retired Chilean air force colonel has come clean and revealed gruesome details of how the bodies of many of Chile's "disappeared" were disposed of: dumped at sea, loaded with lead and injected with chemicals. It all goes to prove jus

This week the Chilean Supreme Court is expected to strip Augusto Pinochet of the immunity he granted himself before leaving office a decade ago. The vote will doubtless amaze Pinochet's friends over here, led by Lady Thatcher and Lord Lamont, who had hoped that by campaigning for his return to Santiago from Britain, they had saved the old tyrant from justice. Chile's Blairesque new president, Ricardo Lagos - himself once jailed under Pinochet - was delighted that a Supreme Court created by Pinochet had turned against him. "What the ruling will show is that all institutions in the country function properly, and that is the way it should be." Now Pinochet faces the unpalatable choice of facing trial for multiple murder - or having himself declared insane or demented. Meanwhile a retired Chilean air force colonel has come clean and revealed gruesome details of how the bodies of many of Chile's "disappeared" were disposed of: dumped at sea, loaded with lead and injected with chemicals. It all goes to prove just what those dictators of left and right always feared: that democracy is a dangerous Pandora's box which, once opened, is impossible to control. Free elections, an independent judiciary and a free press are truly the enemies of the totalitarian.

British newspapers are often accused of wallowing in doom and gloom - particularly in their coverage of foreign affairs. But in a week when Chile's Pinochet and Indonesia's Suharto are facing justice, and when hackers have brought down the Burmese government's official website, it is a true pleasure to report that some of the world's most evil men are on the back foot.

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