Magazine article The Nation

Prisoner Pinochet

Magazine article The Nation

Prisoner Pinochet

Article excerpt

The arrest in London of ex-general, now Senator for Life, Augusto Pinochet, who only recently had been sipping tea in the home of Baroness Thatcher, fingering ties at Burberry's and reviewing missile plants, is a landmark moment for the world human rights movement. Unthinkable a decade ago, the detention of Pinochet, whose regime was responsible for the jailing, torture and murder of thousands, is a sign of increasing international cooperation on human rights. As with landmine eradication, unceasing pressure from citizen lobbies and NGOs has paid off.

Pinochet's arrest was the result of the courageous work of Spanish "Superjudge" Baltasar Garzon. Along with his colleague Manuel Garcia Castellon, Garzon has been doing what the Chilean courts wouldn't -- investigating Pinochet for his complicity in the murder and torture of civilians, some of them Spanish citizens. Credit must also be given to the Labor government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which executed the warrant in accord with the European Convention on Terrorism. If Spain and Britain now concur, Pinochet could be extradited to Madrid, put on trial and slammed into prison. The bagging of Pinochet rudely punctures the bubble of legal impunity that the dictator granted himself and his collaborators with a 1978 "amnesty" decree. It has also highlighted the cowardice of Chile's nominally center-left government, which sprang to Pinochet's defense, grotesquely arguing, pace the Nuremberg principles, that El Senador is shielded by diplomatic immunity. Chilean President Eduardo Frei proclaimed, "Chileans should be judged only by Chilean courts." But Socialist congressman Juan Pablo Letelier -- whose father, Orlando, was killed in 1976 in Washington, DC, by a car bomb set be Pinochet's secret police -- has answered by saying "immunity does not equal impunity. …

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