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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 11:10 GMT
Pinochet: Should he still face trial?

Former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet is making a new legal bid to reverse an order placing him under house arrest.

The order was given last week, when a judge formally charged the general with kidnapping during his 1973-1990 rule.

The general's legal team will argue that the decision to go ahead with charges without waiting for the outcome of medical tests is unfair. They believe tests could show he is unfit for trial.

General Pinochet, now 85, has already spent 503 days in custody in Britain after being arrested at the request of a Spanish judge. He was allowed to return home when it was ruled he was too old and sick to undergo trial in Spain.

Should an old man now be left alone to live out his last years in peace? Or should he face justice regardless of his age?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Has the world become so bankrupt of justice?

Paul Scott, USA
Has the world become so bankrupt of justice that we can let this man go free after what he did? Let's put him on trial and see how many interesting names surface of those involved in the bloody deeds. I hope Guzman has more guts than Jack Straw.
Paul Scott, USA

Send him to TEXAS!!!
Gia, Brazil/ Italy/ USA

Several people have made the point that if Pinochet was to be prosecuted, the message that would be sent to dictators the world over would be "hang onto power at all costs, or we'll come and get you". If Chile fails to prosecute him, the message that would be sent to dictators the world over would be "feel free to torture and murder - if you give up power at some stage in the future, all your crimes will be forgiven".
Adam, England

Prosecute General Pinochet only if you want to send a message to other dictators that they should cling to power at all costs.
Ian Jarmaine, UK


General Pinochet should not face trial

Chris Kennedy, UK
General Pinochet should not face trial. The whole point of the Chilean amnesty (for both factions) in the eighties was to ensure a peaceful return to democracy. Would the equally fiendish Allende have relinquished power?
Chris Kennedy, UK

Did Pinochet ever order a medical inspection of any of his victims before he had them tortured? I doubt it. Did Pinochet ever consider the age of his victims? I doubt it. I hope the Chilean people make the rest of Augusto Pinochet's life a living hell in the same manner as he has made thousands of innocent people's lives a living hell. I wish him a long and miserable old age, and a visit from the ghosts of those who suffered as a result of his orders.
Roger, Norway

If any of you had been in Chile on 10 Sept 1973 and then went back 15 years later, you would notice the difference and see how Allende would have ruined the country. He is not a martyr and was not elected by the majority. Yes Pinochet was not the best person and did many bad things to Chile but I would have taken his dictatorship any day over Allende's "democracy".
J. FernŠndez, Chilean ex-pat in USA


Why should we care about one old man of no significance?

Greg, British in the Netherlands
In Northern Ireland we let mass murdering terrorists go. Why should we care about one old man of no significance?
Greg, British in the Netherlands

I often chuckle at Margaret Thatcher's response when asked by a journalist why she felt compelled to support a man accused of being a murderous dictator, she rounded on the man with that patronising glare, and said, "Is that the best question you can ask? You poor thing".
What she didn't realise then, and probably doesn't yet, is that she didn't belittle the journalist as she had hoped. She had simply demonstrated her inability to answer the question in a way that COULD justify her support of Pinochet.
David Pringle, Scotland

This discussion is now coming up because Pinochet is old and aged. If the law says that all citizens of Chile who are more than 60 years old are exempted from any criminal prosecution, I mean they are above law, then of course he must not be touched. The question is why we are giving sympathy to a criminal just because he is too old? This discussion is even opened up just because of this false sympathy based on age factor. In that case how in Combodia Pol-Pot was treated? Justice should reach irrespective of age, religion and race.
V.V. Srinivasu, India-Japan


Perhaps speeding-up justice would be a timely move

Adam Critchley, Mexico
Pinochet ought to stand trial in order that relatives of the many people who were tortured, killed or disappeared in Chile (and not just Chileans) between 1973-1990 may feel that at last justice has been done. I have met many Chileans in exile after fleeing the Pinochet regime who may consider finally returning home if Pinochet were to stand trial and be imprisoned. The Chilean dictatorship that overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Salvador Allende is very recent history, but if people are still to be tried for crimes committed during World War II, perhaps speeding-up justice would be a timely move.
Adam Critchley, Mexico

As a matter of principle (which may or may not apply to Pinochet), some political bullies are too wicked to stand a medical examination.
Leszek Luchowski, Poland

Indeed he should and so should hundreds of other political leaders who have tyrannised, tortured, pillaged and destroyed the lives of their own people. Without this, the Pinochet affair has no validity and no sense at all.
H LS MacCamley Langer, Brunei


Pinochet supported Britain in the Falklands War

Gavin Pearson, USA
Pinochet supported Britain in the Falklands War. That makes him an ally, not an enemy. On that basis we should defend him, and repay the massive debt we owe him. We shouldn't let him go to trial.
Gavin Pearson, USA

All should pay for their sins in this world, so that would-be criminals against humanity realise what their fate is going to be.
Siraj Sultan, Pakistan

So a person can avoid trial for a crime provided he's old or frail? I smell a geriatric crime spree coming!
Terri, USA

Clearly there should be medical exemptions under certain circumstances - for instance, in cases where a defendant is mentally incapacitated and unable to answer in his or her own defence, which would make a fair trial impossible. A lot of the people on this page are baying not for a trial, but for a show trial - a ritual to rubber-stamp a pre-ordained guilty verdict. Such standards of justice are as low as those of any military dictatorship.
Henry Case, UK


Shouldn't efforts be focused on tracking down those who worked under him?

Leslie Powell, UK
The importance of one's actions is not necessarily diminished when a certain age is reached, but surely the practicality of pursuing someone of Pinochet's age is. I'm very mindful of the personal hatred the friends, relatives and the tortured themselves must feel toward this man, but shouldn't efforts be focused on tracking down those who worked under him? They are surely just as guilty and probably represent a better chance of successful prosecution.
Leslie Powell, UK

Why waste taxpayer's money on a trial? Give him to the relatives of those he tortured and murdered.
A. J. Davies, UK

Pinochet should be judged, no matter what his age. But investigations should go further. His was the hand of death, but who was pulling the strings? The real puppet-master is to be found in Washington. The US government financed Allende's overthrow. It should also be in the dock with Pinochet.
Joe Ryan, France

Why bring up all the past? This has stopped me going to Chile with my three kids for a holiday.
Odonnell, Scotland


Crimes against humanity don't have a sell-by date

Ernesto, Uruguay
Crimes against humanity don't have a sell-by date. Even if they have to wheel Pinochet in on a life support machine, the message to all would-be dictators of the world must be clear: discard respect for human life and you will be held accountable.
Ernesto, Uruguay

Let the man live the last years of his life without trials and troubles, he is too old now.
IMV, South Africa

I think the people who are of the opinion that Pinochet is too old for trial or who think the passage of time somehow mitigates his crimes, should ask the victims of his crimes what they think.
Dave, USA

I find this to be a very strange concept. A person being "too old" to go on trial for their crimes. Would we hesitate to put a former Nazi concentration camp officer on trial regardless of their age or health? Why then does Pinochet get more generous treatment? Then again, why did the British "granny" Soviet spy get special treatment because of her age? If a person can be tried in absentia, why do we give the elderly or those of frail health a pass? Sounds like a great dodge to me, being too "old" or medically too "frail" to go on trial.
Stephen Kenney, USA


Give him to the mothers of the 25th of May movement

Derek, ex-pat, Brazil
Give him to the mothers of the 25th of May movement, you won't need a trial after they finish with him. The UN needs to set an example with all political leaders who commit crimes against humanity; here is a good starting point. People are to keen to forget the "Parilla", the electrified bed on which many Chileans and Argentinians (to name only two nations) were tortured, some to death.
Derek, ex-pat, Brazil

This man should be tried for alleged crimes no matter what his age. Why not ask the relatives of the 'missing' whether he should be tried?
Marcellus Cassius, Canada

Pinochet nominated himself Senator for life but his real title is criminal for life (no expiration date included).
Hernan Vasquez, USA


At least his fate is now in Chilean hands

David K, England
The Lefties may be jumping for joy, but the fact remains that Pinochet saved Chile from Soviet Communism, was a staunch ally to Britain and turned his country back in to a prosperous and peaceful democracy. At least his fate is now in Chilean hands - where it should be - although I would ask them whether it is worth re-opening the wounds of a bygone era when they have so much else to look forward to.
David K, England

The real trial should be of the CIA head at the time of the coup against Salvador Allende (a democratically elected President). The US directly organised Pinochet's rise, now they should be shouldering the blame. Putting Pinochet on trial (while I am in favour of it) is just shooting the messenger boy.
Richard Bottomley, England

Reading your remarks, I think you are all missing the point, British jobs depend on exports to Chile to the tune of £1.5B pa. Who else are we going send our arms, riot control equipment "interrogation aids" to?
Margaret, UK

If it wasn't for Pinochet, Chile today would be just like Castro's Cuba. He should be regarded as a hero, not vilified.
George C. Best, USA

When a reporter asked Augusto Pinochet for his comment regarding the fact that many coffins found in the mass graves contained two or more bodies within them, he replied, "How economical". This is not a comment from someone who should be immune from the rule of law regardless of age or condition. The families of the murdered and the tortured deserve the justice that Pinochet did not provide their loved ones.
William Hicks, USA


Putting him on trial would arouse more divisions in Chilean society

Michael Gahan, Ireland
I think putting Pinochet on trial would be more damaging than good. While morally it might be the correct thing to do, putting him on trial would arouse more divisions in Chilean society and perhaps even more violence. It may be an unattractive decision, but it would be for the greater good to let it go now, there are plenty of bad people out there to catch, and many of them are not retired!!
Michael Gahan, Ireland

He is responsible for murder and torture and some of the sickest crimes in history and you think he should be let off? Make his last years a living hell, like he made the entire lives of other people a living hell.
Paul Charters, England

Of course he should. So what if he's an old man, he never considered age to be a barrier if someone was to be tortured. I notice his Tory apologists in this country have been rather quiet since his arrest, after the revolting spectacle of Maggie presenting Pinochet as a hard-done-by political prisoner I'm surprised she hasn't waded in.
Neil Halliday, UK

We think that we should not give any consideration to an old man, who in his youth gave no consideration to pregnant women, children and innocent men who only wanted the best for their families. Even though we were both born in the United States, at a very early age we were exposed to such atrocities. Victor (age 15) and me (age 18) have disagreed with the United States helping Pinochet just because he overthrew a "Marxist candidate". The US only did that to earn more money through what they know how to do best: the military. People opposing our thoughts would say that he brought Chile out of recession and stabilised the economy, but at what cost? He should be locked up and have his guilt drive him crazy, if he has any.
Victor and Carmen Grande (siblings), United States


It must be also made clear that others were responsible

Oscar Parkyn, New Zealand
I believe that in the 21st century, we must not tolerate or appease those who violate human rights. In this case, Pinochet can and should be tried and I commend the Chilean legal system of recognising this despite the gutless English ruling. Having said this, it must be also made clear that others were responsible.
Oscar Parkyn, New Zealand

If anything he should be made to stand trial to illustrate that no person is immune from rosecution, not even if they have had tea with Margaret Thatcher (good reason enough!)
Graeme McGuire, Australia

Regardless of age, a criminal is a criminal. And he should be stood for trial for the horrendous crimes carried out against innocent people for a long period of time. General Pinochet is no different from any other criminal. It will be a grave injustice towards the families of his victims. His legal team is using his age and sickness as an excuse that is utterly lame. Does anybody remember how he easily got up from his wheelchair once out at the tarmac after a flight from the UK. He walked steadily without any aid! Now they are doing the same thing with the Chilean court. If this criminal is allowed to go free, Chile is doing a great injustice to humankind.
Angie, Singapore


It is a pragmatic issue

Essada, UK
One angle which is not being discussed is the message that we send out to other tyrants. Yes Pinochet committed major crimes but at the end of the day he at least stepped aside and attempted to hand his country over to a democratic government. If his reward for this is to end his days in a prison cell then dozens of other dictators and commissars around the world are going respond by clinging to power, at all costs, rather taking the same course of action. It is a pragmatic issue. Yes it would be nice to have justice/vengeance for old crimes but today Pinochet is harmless. In terms of helping the world oppressed it actually make far more sense to let this dinosaur slip quietly into obscurity.
Essada, UK

Of course, he should! After all, he stole the lives of thousands of people who were in their twenties at the time. The fact that he managed to grow old on their dead bodies should certainly be no excuse. But then, he should be treated, in custody and during trial, with all the respect due to sick and elderly people, because this is the way a civilised society behaves.
Felipe, Spain

Age is not commonly pleaded as a bar to criminal charges in western states. Indeed, it wasn't allowed as a plea of defence or as a mitigating circumstance when the leaders of the former GDR were tried and sentenced - in the case of Erich Mielke, for a death that occurred in 1931. Why therefore would Pinochet be immune from being charged?
R Stiltskin, UK


I would not be going after an old frail person after such a length of time

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
I would not be going after an old frail person after such a length of time and matters in the country are normal by democratic standards. It is true that terrible things were done during his active rule but it is also true that he delivered Chile in the best condition of all South American countries to the people. It is well organised, it is pretty democratic, there is no major corruption and the economy is in decent shape. The overall suffering and the fate of the nation might have been much worse if the Communists or similar souls were then allowed to take power. I would forget about it and take it as an inevitable part of the development of the nation. Such things have happened in many countries including Finland with its civil war but we have forgotten and written them into history.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Should the Japanese be pursued in the case of their war crimes? What about the other numerous villains around the world who laugh at international justice? Pinochet is an easy target who the politically-correct brigade has decided to focus on.
Steve, USA

Of course he should stand trial!! He never gave any consideration to age or health for those who did no more than disagree with him and who he therefore tortured and murdered!
Jim Kennard, UK/ Argentina


Age is no excuse when it comes to paying for such dreadful, inhumane crimes

Kevin, UK
Aren't we missing the point here? Pinochet is a murderer (albeit indirectly). Murderers should be punished. I doubt there's anyone anywhere who would disagree with that. The fact that it's taken this long to find and detain him is testament to the international police and security forces who cared enough to apprehend a brutal killer. Age is no excuse when it comes to paying for such dreadful, inhumane crimes. To forfeit the rest of his life in freedom in return for all those he killed and maimed is the very least that should happen.
Kevin, UK

Send Pinochet to the Netherlands where, no doubt, they would be happy to put him to sleep.
Chris Klein, UK

There is no 'expiry' or 'sell-by' date on crimes of this severity. Irrespective of the man's age, or maybe controversially, his state of health, he should be held accountable if guilty. He may be 83, but many of the victims of his regime were never given the choice to reach anywhere near that age. Why should people tiptoe around Pinochet and his rights simply on the basis that he's old? Do we live in a world where people's accountability decays with age?
Peter, England


A trial is too good for him

N. Tharg, UK
A trial is too good for him. The wife of a friend of mine was beaten, raped and imprisoned by his thugs. He needs to be imprisoned as a lesson to all would-be dictators that crimes against humanity will always be punished.
Tharg, UK

What a question!! It suggests to me that if you're over a certain age you have some kind of immunity against being held accountable for your crimes.
Anthony Harris, UK

Yes, if we can still hunt Nazis and other war criminals down fifty-five years after WWII we can try Pinochet.
Philip Forde, Boston, USA


The right to govern a nation does not include the right to violate human rights

N. Ferguson, London, UK
Whether or not one old man is sent to prison for the rest of his life is not the point: the real victory has already happened, the tide has turned against Pinochet (and hopefully set a precedent for others). The right to govern a nation does not include the right to violate human rights, and it is the international community's duty to guard against such atrocities. Whether Pinochet is tried or not, found guilty or not, there is much work to be done. At least we are heading in the right direction.
N. Ferguson, London, UK

Yes. And what about those in America responsible for supporting Pinochet's military overthrow of the elected Allende government?
Jon, UK

Whether an old man should be allowed to live out his days in peace depends largely on the severity of the crime. Given that the crimes are murder, kidnapping and torture he must face trial.
Mick, UK

If he is too ill to attend court then try him in abstentia with his legal representatives present. I'm sure Pinochet didn't give too figs whether someone was too ill to be tortured.
Gerry, Scotland


Justice must be seen to be done by finding him guilty if that is the verdict of the court

Steve Hodgson, UK
If the doctors in Chile say that he's fit to stand trial, then he should. I cannot see how British doctors' assessments should hold any relevance. However I fear that the Chilean doctors' judgements may be subject to pressure from interested parties. Even if Pinochet does not receive the full sentence, justice must be seen to be done by finding him guilty if that is the verdict of the court.
Steve Hodgson, UK

Absolutely! He should face trial and answer for the appalling crimes committed under his regime. I hope that some of the relatives of the 'disappeared' will finally have the chance to find out something about their loved ones. It is also important for us as a race to scrutinise the mechanisms of power which allow atrocities such as bestial rape of prisoners to happen. We need to know if deliberate terror tactics were used or whether law and order simply broke down amongst the military.
Victoria Grant, Great Britain

During Pinochet's dictatorship thousands of Chileans were murdered. He, as the head of government, is to be held responsible. There are still people suffering from the consequences of being tortured, there are some whose loved ones will never return. Murder is a crime that shouldn't be allowed to just slip away because Pinochet is old.
Alexander Buehler, Germany

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