Letter: Stop protecting Pinochet

MUCH of the discussion relating to the Law Lords' ruling on Pinochet ("He's got a long way ahead", 29 November) has focused on the issue of whether a former head of state should have immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during his/her period of office.

Perhaps we should also consider whether someone who overthrows by force an existing government has the right to be regarded as a legitimate head of state. After all, in most countries, including our own, the leader of an attempted coup which failed would be put on trial for treason, and would be subject, if found guilty, to severe penalties. Why should such people, if they succeed in overthrowing a government, be accorded protection from prosecution during and after their rule?

Pinochet was responsible for terrible crimes during the coup and once in power, and he should be prosecuted for the crimes of both periods. Let us hear no more nonsense about compassion for this old, frail man who has been travelling around busily negotiating arms deals. Nazi leaders such as Hess and Eichmann received no compassion on account of their age, and neither should this more recent example of the species.