Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 17:50 GMT
Straw faces no-win decision
Jack Straw faces a conundrum with vast implications
By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder
The Law Lords ruling on General Pinochet has landed Home Secretary Jack Straw with one of the most difficult decisions he will ever have to take.
And, while his decision is on the face of it a purely legal one, politics will play a huge and probably decisive part in the proceedings.
And the last thing he wants is a trial, with all its accompanying circus, in this country.
The Chileans are battling to heal the wounds left from Pinochet's reign and rebuild their country.
They have managed to forge a fragile accommodation with the past and Jack Straw has it in his hands to undermine that.
He's in a no-win situation and his decision is not expected for some time.
But the views of those who are defending General Pinochet at this point require further examination.
Few doubt that Pinochet ran one of the most vile regimes of the late 20th century, with tens of thousands of people allegedly butchered, tortured and "disappeared".
Wasn't it Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who insisted that Saddam Hussein should face a war crimes trial in the wake of the Gulf War and for his butchery of the Kurds.
Presumably, if Saddam was in ill health, that policy - doomed to failure thought it always was - would have been abandoned on compassionate grounds.
It also suggests that you can somehow balance the books of human evil.
Another argument, put with the usual force by Tory backbencher Teresa Gorman, runs that: "There are huge financial implications involved in this. Chile is a good friend of Britain and jobs and contracts could be put in jeopardy." It's an unattractive, but powerful argument.
And as ever, in the cold world of international politics, things are never black and white and the notion of national interest will rear its ugly head.
Meanwhile, the General himself remains safe in a British hospital.
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