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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 11:07 GMT

Viewpoint: Wonderful news for human rights

[ image:  ]
It is wonderful news that Jack Straw has given the Order to Proceed with the hearing at Bow Streeet Magistrates Court on Friday of the Spanish application for the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.

Now the case for extradition can be properly heard by a court, and if the court rules that it has been properly made, the General can be sent to Spain to stand trial.

It is good news not only for all those Spanish, French, Belgian, British, US and other foreign victims of the Chilean military dictatorship, but for the Chilean people themselves, the relatives of the 3,000 or more who were killed and all those who disappeared.
September 1973: Archive footage
At last their quest for justice has a chance of success: the impunity of Pinochet and his officers is no longer guaranteed.

In recent weeks many have argued that it would be better for Pinochet to be tried in Chile. That might well be true, if only such a trial were possible. However, as Isabel Allende and others told Jack Straw, such a trial is not possible under the present Chilean constitution and Chilean law.

[ image: A memorial naming 2,500 people who died during Pinochet's rule.]
A memorial naming 2,500 people who died during Pinochet's rule.
If the Chilean government is serious about putting Pinochet on trial, then they must make the constitutional and legal changes necessary to make that possible. Once that was done they could initiate a prosecution and issue a request for the General's extradition from Britain or Spain. Of course that is no light matter. But then the murder of 3,000 people is no light matter, either.

Of course the Pinochet case has profound consequences for the protection of human rights everywhere, not just in Chile. The decision to allow the extradition process to go ahead is the best possible tribute to the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and gives a much-needed fillip to the attempts to establish an International Criminal Court and to extend a new international rule of law.

Mike Gatehouse. December 1998.

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