Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 14:59 GMT
Pinochet ruling - Your reaction
At these times when, yet again, the world's bullies vociferously claim rights that they have denied their silent victims, the Law Lords judgement is a (qualified) reminder of the essential nature of the best traditions of British justice - fair to a fault.
From this Antipodean perspective, it would seem that people of a mind such as M Thatcher would have claimed immunity for A Hitler and J Stalin.
The Law Lords' principle of "no international immunity for international crimes" is an unfortunately appropriate endnote to the 20th Century's litany of trespasses against humanity.
Neil Robertson, New Zealand
The man was responsible for the murders of thousands of people. When is someone going to stop ducking the issue and make the decision to have him extradited to make him face his responsibility for this?
A crime is a crime, and no one should be immune from prosecution, especially when a given power is used in an inhumane way.
I am very relieved to hear that justice will have its day in court, even though LAW and international diplomacy has once again taken a huge bite out of its capacity to deliver a just sentence on all of Pinochet's past crimes!
Torture is a heinous crime. It should be punished in any case. The Nazis committed their crimes well before September 1988. Yet in Britain also they were tried for crimes against humanity. From the moral point of view torturers must answer for their crimes. From this point of view it seems strange that some midnight in September 1988 is a watershed. After all, we have the Nuremberg precedent.
One year ago the possibility to limit and detain Pinochet would have been unthinkable. It never ceases to amaze me that inhumane crimes against a person, let alone thousands of people, could go unpunished for so long, and knowing very well that people like Pinochet are the authors behind these tragedies of human loss.
Mrs Thatcher and her ilk should be ashamed. Pinochet should be deported to Spain at the earliest possible moment, where their courts can decide his guilt or innocence.
Looking at it, he should be extradited and punished for his crimes against humanity. Would we have let Hitler go free if we had found him. Why carry on with this farce when all of us know nothing is going to happen? If everybody involved want to do something seriously then do it quickly and not when Pinochet is on his deathbed.
The regime and those individual criminal elements are the ones that should be judged.
Bravo! Having established the principle that he is subject to extradition for his crimes, England should now make a political decision to return him to Chile, respecting the path it has chosen towards justice and reconciliation.
Pinochet should be extradited to Spain while other countries prepare to apply for extradition concerning loss of their own nationals - keep him on the run until he is no longer able.
Surely the Law lords are wrong - torture has been illegal in this country since 17th century at least - and surely Britain cannot afford to appear to condone torture by preserving a torturer. On their logic, Hitler couldn't have been punished for crimes of torture committed before 1988!
It is indeed an historic decision to extradite General Pinochet. This decision is important not only for this single case, but more importantly, for the general lesson it gives to those criminals in different countries, under various protections, yet to be accountable for their brutal crime.
As regards Jack Straw's decision...surely you don't require thousands of accusations of murder and torture in order to extradite someone, just one should be more than enough to merit putting someone on trial!
The Law Lords are correct. This should be a good precedent for countries like China, Malaysia etc that still does not respect human rights the way they should be respected.
Pinochet should be charged for all crimes committed during his rule. Many innocent people suffered from his power, including my hard working family. I believe this is a big victory for all and will help pave the road for a more peaceful society. Pinochet has no remorse and does not believe he committed any crimes against humanity. He stole from his own people and country that he says he is loyal to.
The House of Lords ruling is the best that could have been made with the facts of the case. It has upheld two important legal principles - no one should be punished for an act which was not an offence at the time it was committed, and crimes against humanity are punishable irrespective of where the offence was committed. The ruling should be a deterrent to all dictators.
Is it worth all this money that the British taxpayer will eventually have to pay, for crimes after 1988, when it all happened in Chile prior to this date?
Unfortunately Pinochet will carry the can for the individuals who carried out the torture and the 'disappearing' of the Chilean people. Is it any great victory for humanity to lock up an old man when the people who did the actual 'work' look on and laugh?
Pinochet should face justice as should anybody else accused of crimes against humanity. Such a judgement is not possible in Chile due to evident political pressure from his supporters and the military. Although a small victory, today's ruling is a bit disappointing in that he is still given the benefit of dilation and reconsideration by Mr Straw. If he were to allow Pinochet's return to Chile it would be one more slap in the face of the dictator's victims.
I cautiously welcome the ruling, and ask Jack Straw to remember the pride which the majority of British people felt at the original ruling, knowing that the UK was leading the way in the universal fight for human rights. If Pinochet does not face charges then we might as well rip up the UN Charter.
The British have once again missed the opportunity to extract themselves from something they should never have become involved with in the first place. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones and both England and Spain are in this position. Just ask the IRA or ETA who are ultimately responsible for the many actions taken in these situations? The prime ministers of the respective countries? Will they be the next to go on trial? Not likely of course, since both England and Spain are much bigger countries. It's easier to overrun the rights of smaller countries instead. The energy would be better used resolving the problem of Kosovo now.
Before the Nuremberg trials, there existed no such thing as a "crime against humanity" yet this was what many of the defendants were tried for. Why then, in regard to torture which is of universal jurisdiction and arguably jus cogens, have the House of Lords adopted the belief that before 1988 torture of another human was not a crime as specified in English law? I think there has been a wasted opportunity here.
A just ruling which should have large and positive effects in the defence of the human rights that Pinochet so brutally violated. The ruling of the Lords should be followed by a fair trial concerning his extradition to Spain. It would be a pity if, after this historical decision, the home secretary ends up allowing Pinochet to go back and go on with his obstruction to the establishment of a genuine democracy in Chile.
I agree with the Lords' decision and think that he will probably spend the rest of his life embroiled in legal dispute with the authorities in the UK and Spain.
I can only applaud the ruling that Pinochet is not immune to prosecution. This is not a national question, but one of ethics.
Unbelievable! The absurdity of this ruling seems to lie in its attempt to create a "win-win" situation in a case where thousands of people lost their lives. It's hard to believe that Pinochet cannot be prosecuted for his crimes based on a legal technicality. Hitler must be laughing at us!
For a child of Chileans forced from their country by fears of torture and disappearance, this second ruling is at least a relief. For Pinochet to return to Chile now would be a greater defeat than if his arrest had never happened. I am happy at least that he will remain a little longer in custody and that we have another chance at justice.
This means ultimately a gradual pardon for Pinochet granted by the international legal establishment represented, in this case, by the Law Lords. If this is so international civil society has lost again another case against tyranny.
General Pinochet was a leader who definitely played a key role in freeing Chile from socialism/communism. Wars will never be fair and there will always be room for 'justification'. Nevertheless, nobody can be above the law and people should not turn and look away and let their consciences live in hypocrisy. If it is proved that the allegations against Pinochet are true, then why should he be freed? Principles should not be overlooked in favour of political or economical benefits. Society would probably suffer.
It seems odd that the UK is applying the doctrine of sovereign immunity in an extradition matter. The British courts are not being asked to try General Pinochet on the merits of the matter, but to turn him over to Spanish authorities for such a determination. I am sure there are many foreign laws which are inapplicable or even void in the UK but which would nonetheless require extradition under the treaty with Spain or under international norms of comity. This is perhaps an oversimplification of the issue, but neither the High Court nor the Law Lords has any business dictating to Spain what it can and cannot do under its own laws, Baroness Thatcher's views notwithstanding.
It's about time that Britain stopped supporting dictators who have murdered so many innocent people. I hope that justice can be done for a change and show that people like Pinochet are accountable for their crimes like the general public.
It's the best news in a long, long time. I am Chilean and for me that is justice for us and also it is a step forward to a better world.
This seems to imply that Hitler, as Germany's head of state at the time, would have sovereign immunity as his crimes were committed before 1988!
My opinion is to let Pinochet go back to Chile.
This is wrong. He should be sent to Spain to face all the charges.
I'm delighted by the ruling of the Law Lords. I think that the Law Lords are probably the most respected justice body in the world, and this ruling just keeps its "prestige" high.
It is very sad that a legal technicality will mean Pinochet not being held accountable for the atrocities committed under his regime prior to 1988. It seems to be a very British compromise.
I do hope that Pinochet pays for his crimes! There are no borders, no frontiers, against crimes such as torture and the assassination of over 4,000 lives. I also hope that these procedures in the UK are now swift and this mass murderer is sent to Spain as soon as possible. May the thousands of victims rest in peace...
Great news. Regardless of when they were committed, this man instigated horrific acts of violence and brutality on the people of Chile and it would have been a travesty if he had escaped prosecution. This ruling is only the beginning but it was the proper and honourable decision.
Although its a soft ruling and the fight to extradite Pinochet is not over, this is definitely a victory for justice, world peace and the human race.
Now a decision has been made all the efforts of the British legal system should be to extradite General Pinochet to Spain. Britain has been burdened with the rising costs of protecting him for too long.
The essential point of him not being able to skip a court appearance for crimes committed under his leadership is confirmed. Also, both law lords' rulings make it more difficult for the home secretary to ease away from his responsibilities to live up to what is left of Labour's traditional sympathy for people who have not had a fair hearing or any chance to be properly heard.
Whatever the complications, crime committed before 1988 is still a crime and so granting any concession on the grounds of 'date of signing of an agreement' is unfair - on this count many Nazi war criminals could go unpunished...
I'm tired of hearing bleeding heart liberals cheering this decision as though Pinochet is the only chap ever to have killed anyone. Where is the outrage over Castro? Now that South Africa is a better place after the amnesty commission, will we still prosecute Mandela for ANC terrorism after he steps down? No, of course not - they're left-wingers.
It is a pity that a decision with such human rights' implications should hang on the definition of "extradition crime". Torture should be punishable anywhere, whenever committed.
It's time to set Senator Pinochet free to ensure that trade between two friendly countries can continue as before.
Let Chileans decide their future and the fate of the Senator.
I think that it is a good idea that he will be able to face at least some of the charges. Previously it looked like he was going to get away with it. As someone who knows people that were tortured during his regime it is good that they will get justice. I hope he gets extradited to Spain to face the law there.
Send back your empty private jet, Pinochet, you're not going home! Now that the hunter has become the hunted may he be troubled to his grave for his countless brutal crimes against humanity. May he now be extradited without further delay and the relatives of the Disappeared and their offspring, like the daughters of Victor Jara, be allowed to sing triumphant for the first time in decades.
Send him to Spain. If he has done nothing wrong, he has nothing to fear. Justice must be seen to be done.
At last a little bit of justice for all those who died, disappeared, and suffered under torture. In most cases their crime was to have supported the legal and democratically elected Chilean government. During those days many of those people were humiliated, with no possibilities of getting jobs. Others were expelled from universities - there was a long black list.
It is my sincere hope that firstly, Spain succeeds in extraditing "Senator" Pinochet, and secondly, Spain still has capital punishment for genocide.
Please send Pinochet back to Chile. We need him here.
A great day for justice!!!
I praise the Lords' decision, as it debases the claim of immunity from heinous crimes. For all those who suffered the consequences of Pinochet's criminal deeds, on both sides of the conflict, justice is slowly being done. May cool heads prevail in Chile and everywhere, as we all assess our collective responsibilities that allowed for Pinochet to act, as he did, for so long.
I was on Parliament Square to hear the ruling and watched those people who lost relatives and friends in Chile as a result of Pinochet's regime. I would challenge anyone to explain to those people why Pinochet shouldn't answer for his part in the loss of their loved ones. It is wrong that no one was tried for Stephen Lawrence's murder, and it would be wrong if no one was tried for theirs. This is the only just result and I am delighted.
My faith in the judiciary has been restored. I now hope that the Spanish courts will pass judgement on one of the worlds most evil men. Well done GB.
It's great to see that the Lords have some form of conscience! While not a perfect ruling, this should, regardless of the legal manoeuvring by the old tyrant Pinochet, send a message to all oppressors that they are not safe from facing charges for their crimes! It doesn't even matter that Pinochet may die before he is finally prosecuted, for just the fact that he could spend his last days pathetically trying to beat extradition rather than facing them with the courage that his victims faced him warms my heart.
This ruling is a reminder to dictators that they are accountable for their crimes. Some have suggested that this case should not be addressed in the UK but the fact is that crimes against humanity and genocide are everyone's business.
We should be a country that values human rights and not houses criminals who are against humanity. Maybe it is time to review our procedures for extradition within Europe. We should've shipped him out to Spain when arrested and saved a lot of time and money.
Congratulations to the British justice system.
I believe that the ruling of the law lords was the correct one. This ruling appears to give the impression that international law can be used effectively (unlike in the former Yugoslavia). However, I find it strange that Spain, who appears to be ignoring its own violent past, is looking to extradite the general. This to me looks like hypocrisy. Surely they should punish their own criminals before hunting down dictators from other countries.
Torture is torture and can never be excused under any circumstances. Shame on those who try to free torturers on legal technicalities. Britain should be proud of this ruling, I am.
I am extremely glad that natural justice seems to have won. I think if the he had won then the whole legal system in this country would have had its reputation tarnished.
I am basically very happy that at least some measure of justice will be applied to the old dictator, although I resent the way legal technicalities will reduce the scope of the accusations. It is obvious that he committed the bulk of his heinous crimes against humanity before 1988! This will considerably reduce the ability of Spain to try him for the most notorious crimes - especially those committed outside of Chile under operation Condor. But I still feel satisfied that he will not be free to go and will probably have to spend the rest of his days in a gilded prison fighting a long protracted legal battle.
Today is shaping up to be a bad day for dictators - Pinochet and Milosevic both look set to pay for their crimes. Let's hope it makes the world a better place, rather than just perpetuating the harm they have been involved in.
I hope we never find Adolf Hitler sat in an Argentine bar. Presumably we would let him go with a ticking off as it all happened before 1988.
Let him go home.
I am totally appalled by the Lords' decision. Though his crimes were committed before signing the Convention Against Torture in 1988, they were crimes against humanity nonetheless. Today's ruling was nothing but a hypocritical way of trying to save him from paying for his crimes while trying to makes those against him believe that he will indeed pay for what he's done to Chile and Latin America in general. I am most disillusioned by the ruling.
The victims of General Pinochet were mostly silenced and have no one to speak for them. I had hoped British justice would take up the cause of the oppressed and make this man pay for the crimes of which he is so proud. The fact that only crimes since 1988 will be considered grounds for extradition makes this less rather than more likely, which is a shame.
The most positive thing to happen since new labour came to power. Sadly, Pinochet looks likely to escape trial for his crimes before 1988. This is a victory for democracy and human rights!!!
Let Henry Kissinger be next in line to be held accountable for their crimes against the people of Chile. The "compromise verdict" is a weak-kneed solution to the problem of oligarchies and their sponsor-states.
The Law Lords have done the right thing. It would be a farce if a head of state were immune from prosecution for crimes against humanity: they have more power than anyone else, and their victims have no means of redress.
This verdict will hopefully start to restore the public's confidence that the British establishment can make the right decisions.
We are very happy with the decision
His supporters here say that the crimes before 1988 are not actually crimes now!
A very sad decision, if it's a crime in England and Chile then surely its extraditable!
The Chilean senate can only grant amnesty for what was done towards its own citizens. This may be the price for democracy in Chile. However, they cannot grant amnesty for atrocities committed towards foreign citizens. Pinochet cannot escape the past.
Send him to Spain by Easyjet.
Justice has to be done here. He should be extradited to Spain. He killed a lot of people.
Pinochet should now be allowed to return to Chile where they can settle the matter. To let his case drag on in England, maybe for years, will not only cost a lot of money, it may never come to anything and will continue to poison Britain's relations with Chile and other Latin American countries.
Pinochet should be tried for the terrible atrocities committed on his orders whilst he was in power. Many Chileans lived in fear for their lives. Members of families would leave home never to return, becoming numbers of them 'disappeared'. The footaball stadium in Santiago forever reminds people of the mass slaughter that occurred there. He is liable for this.
According to an Argentine newspaper, Pinochet could still be sentenced in Spain to 1008 years in prison if only his crimes since 1988 were considered (33 cases of torture and murder).
Just extradite him to Spain and let them deal with this monster and stop wasting the taxpayers money in pointless legal processes.
It's great to see that the Lords have some form of conscience! While not a perfect ruling, this should, regardless of the legal manoeuvring by the old tyrant Pinochet, send a message to all oppressors that they are not safe from facing charges for their crimes! It doesn't even matter that Pinochet may die before he is finally prosecuted for just the fact that he could spend his last days pathetically trying to beat extradition rather than facing them with the courage that his victims faced him warms my heart.
It is really shocking that justice has to be sought in other countries rather than in their own. But at last it will be done.
There cannot be people who are exempt from the law under "natural justice". This is a statement that law can offer a just ruling, even in a world where politics and wealth can buy innocence.
A just ruling, and a timely warning to the many monstrous tyrants bestriding the globe that their misdeeds will catch up with them some day in a world that is becoming more sensitive to rights.
Viva Human Rights!
Thanks, you guys in England. One more happy Chilean today.
The decision is a very welcome and important development in the history of both the common law and international law and aims towards the protection of human rights and the prosecution of crimes against mankind.
May justice be done in the end, although it may take a while. Time is irrelevant in this case.
Once again the Lords have given the right decision.
A triumph of truth and international law over politics - may it herald the beginning of true international accountability in the area of human rights!
What a fiasco. There is now clearly no point in dragging this out any longer. The only people who will now gain are the lawyers.
Good Work House of Lords! Thank You!
I applaud the decision of the Law Lords (again)! However, it would seem that Pinochet may never stand trial for the (alleged) crimes he has committed due to the fact that he has the resources to mount a legal challenge at every stage of the forthcoming extradition process. It is sickening that in comparison, 'the disappeared' were offered no rights at all (human or legal) in their treatment.
The new decision by the House of Lords is a courageous one, in view of the pressures from Chile. However I feel it is a correct decision, and leaders of any country in which such gross and cruel abuses of power took place, should face the consequences of their acts. Hopefully the extradition battle will not be too long drawn out, and that Pinochet will eventually be tried for his crimes.
So justice only become law in 1988? Augusto Pinochet illegally seized power, killed 3,000-4,000 people, and he did not break the law! According to this ruling, dictators such as Josef Stalin were totally abiding by international law. Something is horribly wrong with the British legal system.
This ruling is a ray of light to the struggle against despotism. I do take exception to Amnesty International being described as an "anti-Pinochet" organisation, though; they're only against human rights abuses.
The decision of the Law Lords of Great Britain is the reaffirmation many of us needed to start to believe in the principles of international law again. This ruling is historic, from now onwards persons like Pinochet would know they are not immune under international law.
We should charge him here for the murder of Britons - if he goes to Spain, he cannot be put in prison.
Now it is time to send him to Spain!
Good work House of Lords. This Evil Dictator will now pay for his crimes. Your decision now pave the way for other despot like Rauf Denktash to be brought to justice.
I think it's about time Pinochet gets what he deserves.
We stood by and did nothing to stop Hitler, now is the time to stand up and be counted. What can be more precious than a human life? Hold people accountable for their actions.
I feel that justice has been finally served. Pinochet will have to assume responsibility for his acts, and he knows it. Even if Mr. Straw decides to pardon him based in humanitarian reasons (reasons that Pinochet and his followers did not considered with the disappeared and the those they killed) now the whole world knows that that type of behaviour it is not accepted anywhere in the world and that any country or organisation with a sense of dignity and respect for human beings can prosecute dictators.
Send us your views on the ruling now: