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Karl Aniskiewicz, Barcelona
"I was personally disgusted by what was going on."
 real 28k

Kieran Maule, Mexico
"I feel that Mr Straw has ruined what has been an impeccable performance from the British government."
 real 28k

Alan Griffiths, Amsterdam
"For justice to be done, it must be seen to be done."
 real 28k

Francisco Ruiz
"I think we're mature enough to make our own judgements for our political life in our country."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 11:25 GMT
Pinochet: Should he be allowed home?

UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has accepted medical advice that former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet is unfit to stand trial in Spain for torture.

Is the home secretary right to accept medical opinion, or should General Pinochet still be extradited?

Read and hear a reflection of your comments during the programme

Read what you said before we went ON AIR

Read what you have said since the programme

Your comments since the programme

It is unfortunate that the real politics seems again to be taking precedence over justice, but the controversy itself has been very beneficial in raising issues and exhuming a past which should not be disregarded.
Richard Ballerand, USA

I believe that Pinochet should be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Crimes are not normal crimes. There is no statute of limitation on crimes against humanity! Old age or health problems should not allow such monsters to escape justice. If Pinochet's health is in bad shape, then he can be provided with the utmost in health care during his trial. His health condition or old age may be grounds for their not serving their sentence, but definitely not for his escaping justice.
Walid Keyrouz, Lebanon

Pinochet's state of health is irrelevant when one considers the gravity of the crimes he committed against his opponents. Just occasionally the powerful who give orders must be made to answer for their crimes. Not only the lower ranks who obey orders. Ill health is just a pretext to let this evil dictator off the hook
Paul, UK

Of course, Pinochet should be allowed to return to Chile. The matter simply is not the business of Spain or Great Britain. Spain, which has conveniently overlooked whatever may have happened during the Franco era, which won't take Fidel Castro to task for his ongoing despotism, is in a particularly weak position on the matter. Amazing that the blatent colonialism of the Spanish maneuvers hasn't come in for more criticism.
Frank Wilson, USA

Jack Straw has struck a blow to the cause of human rights. He went out of his way to accommodate Pinochet including striking a deal regarding medical privacy which could only benefit Pinochet. The only thing more disgraceful was the sight of the lady Conservative MP making political capital in Parliament and reducing a situation full of historic implications to a party tit-for-tat.
Jonathan Harpaz, Israel

Only Chile and the Chileans have the right to judge Pinochet, it is an internal problem, no other country has the right to do it. It is the right decision, now it is up to the Chileans judge him.
Enzo Oliveira, Brazil

While Pinochet is still alive, whether ill or not, able to go through a court hearing or not, he should go back to Chile and face his people. The truth about thousands of 'unusual' deaths under his dictatorship cannot be ignored. There are human rights involved in this case. It would be fair for both and just (for both sides) for him to go back and face this ordeal.
Quimeta Sugranyes, Puerto Rico

I'm sure there are Nazi war criminals who were older and/or less mentally capable than General Pinochet when they were brought to trial...and if he has nothing to hide and is such an 'honourable' man, why won't he just agree to stand trial?
Tjeerd Blackford, Belgium

I am puzzled by Mr Straw's waiting a week for various groups to make known their views. Either these representations could change the decision to let the General go, or this pause is a hollow gesture. Since several European countries have expressed their opposition to the present stance of the British government, is there any real possibility of their having any impact on what happens?
Michael Paul Gallagher, Irish, living in Rome

I had to leave my country Colombia due to the economic crisis, the guerrilla warfare, and the control of drug lords. Pinochet during his dictatorship got rid of all these problems in neighbouring Chile, and made it one of the best countries to live in South America. I think Pinochet did more good, than bad. I wish we had someone in Colombia we the guts of Pinochet.
Roberto Reyes, Colombia

He is still a danger because he is an example (whether this is legal, political, right or wrong, sane or not, ill or not, with back problems or not doesn't matter, the fact is he is an example) to other people like him who take power through violence. This is happening right now in parts of the world. Shall we try to slow this or shall we let them go without even a trial? Will someone in your family disappear and be tortured next year or will the dictator apply the brakes a little because he knows he might also be old someday and might want to visit a hospital in another country for treatment etc. If a dictator feels that we are watching, maybe a couple more lives will be saved -- maybe someone in your family.
Peter Miller, Belgium

While the British Government continues to release psychopaths in Northern Ireland - those who have butchered men, women and children without remorse, to general international applause, I find it hard to take this outrage seriously. What about the human rights of the thousands of innocent civilians and members of the security forces murdered by sectarian terrorists? I won't hold my breath.......
Peter Smith, UK


Your comments during the programme

We need to know exactly what do they mean by "not fit for trial". As far as we can see him, he can think, he can talk and he can walk and this is far more enough to be fit for trial. This disgusting statement "not fit for trial" is a slap on the face of justice and human rights.
Ashraf Elsahn, Egyptian in Canada

I agree with the position of Mr Straw. It took too long. We're having presidential elections today in our country and you can se we're in a well established democracy and I think we're mature enough to make our own judgements for our political life in our country.
Francisco Ruiz, Chile

Even though there may be medical evidence suggesting that he is not fit to stand trail, there may be greater good brought to both the famillies of the victimes and the body-politic of a demoractic Chile if a trail takes place. In Spain or Chile itself. If this is the case I feel that it is difficult to accept an undisclosed medical opion indicating not to proceed with a trail.
Andrew Pinney, Honduras

It is really a matter of transparency. My points fall really into two parts.

The British home secretary was asked to decide if Pinochet was fit enough to be extradited.


I wonder if the same people would have the same opinons, if it was Che Guvara on trial.

Mosley Jones, Australia
Really it is up to the Spanish authorities to decide whether he's fit enough to stand trial and what Jack Straw has done has taken the decision on fitness for trial out of Spain's hands which I find insulting to Spain. It's as if he is saying Spain cannot or will not treat the consequences of extradition reasonably.

The second matter is a question of approach or style. For justice to be done, it must be seen to be done. The home secretary has a prerogative on having the last say on extradition. At the same time his decisions must be transparent.
Alan Griffiths, Amsterdam

I wonder if the same people would have the same opinons, if it was Che Guvara on trial.
Mosley Jones, Australia

Does it make any real difference if a sick old man goes home anyway? He is dying.
Dave Adams, USA

Quite the contrary of General Pinochet "getting away with it", as some of your callers suggest, the eyes of the world have been on this man for the last 18 months as a constant reminder of the atrocities carried out under his administration. Surely now we can show some humanity to a sick and elderly man by returning him to Chile and indicate thereby that there are other ways of dealing with difficult problems.
Jennifer McCann, Wimington, DE

Won't it harder to reach the truth the longer investigation is delayed? I don't think the public trust claims of Pinochet's ill health and might not his health be more of factor in sentencing if he was found guilty. If he's innocent, wouldn't he want to clear his name?
Jonathan Sumpton, Norway

Why talk about health matters? If Gen. Pinochet is to be tried, then there should be a post mortem trial of Dr. Allende, who led Chile towards a communist regime. Dr. Allende was openly communist and a friend of Fidel Castro. He infiltrated 25,000 marxist terrorists and guerrilleros to make a coup. Ten of tons of guns and explosives were shipped to his residences as "works of art". Just read the Chilean press of the time.

Dr. Allende was repeatedly condemned by the Chilean constitutional court. Just weeks before Gen. pinochet's coup, the Chilean parliament solemly appealed for law and order to be restored in the face of the rampant dictatorship of Dr. Allende and called on the armed forces to act as last-resort protectors of the constitution.

If a German general had overtrown elected chancellor Hitler, would you have called for him to be tried? Matters of health are hardly relevant here.
Stéphane Wailliez, Brussels

Did Pinochet bother whether the people that were arrested as a consequence of orders issued by his government. were fit to be taken to jail, to be tortured, killed, disappear, their children given to members of his regime for adoption ?

If Egon Krenz and other Germans both Nazi and Communist, Serb warlords, are still being punished, why should Pinochet and others be treated differently?

Let Pinochet feel at least once in his life what thousands had to feel also against their will, send him to Spain!

NO, I am not Chilean, German, Spanish...BUT I like to call a spade a spade...
Manuela Pons, Johannesburg, South Africa


It is time that we did legally intervene in the legal affairs of pariah nations when their people are being massacred.

John Allan, Canada
What I don't understand is that having spent many months to determine that Pinochet should be extradited to Spain, at the last minute his health becomes more important than the crimes he is supposed to have committed. Surely, having shown that the extradition criteria have been met he should be sent to Spain. It is then up to the Spanish courts to decide whether he is fit to answer the charges.
Roy

I feel that Mr Straw has ruined what has been an impeccable performance from the British government in this case in so much as they have gone out of their way to show their impartiality. I feel at the end of the process what Mr Straw should have done is open up the medical report to physicians from the different parties and make certain elements of the report known at least to the parties themselves or the public at large.
Kieran Maule, Mexico

There was a time inside our nations, when if a woman, and children were being beaten inside their homes... that we thought of it as none of our business, and the perogative of the leader of that household. We have changed. It is time that we did legally intervene in the legal affairs of pariah nations when their people are being massacred.
John Allan, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

If Hitler were alive today, but sick and ailing, like Pinochet, would he have been " spared "? This is double standards and the meritocracy scratching the back of the meritocracy.
Delbar Karara

Having been to witness to some of the atrocities that were carried out - not personally, but having seen photographs and reports coming in from Chile when I did some voluntary work for Amnesty International some years ago, I was personally disgusted by what was going on. It was hard to believe that a legally elected government could be over thrown by a general who then went on to imprison his opponents, butcher them and take them out in aircraft and throw them out alive over the sea. To say that this man hasn't to stand to answer for them on the grounds of ill health is absolutely terrible.
Karl Aniskiewicz, Barcelona

Britain is a terrorist now with the release of Pinochet. Britain should stop crying about human rights in other lands.
Wilson Samraj, Singapore

I hope that Jack Straw does not listen to the comments of the human rights groups because General Pinochet should be allowed to return home to Chile. It is up to the Chilean authorities as to what they do to the General, not a British Home Secretary or a Spanish judge. Send this friend of Britain, who is old and frail back home as soon as possible.
Andrew Pennington, United Kingdom

It is interesting that while Jack Straw is prepared to let General Pinochet leave the UK for Chile untried, he is also prepared to let boxer Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who makes vast amounts of money by violence against others, enter the UK in the "interest of businesses in the UK". What standards is Mr Straw working by? Do we allow vicious criminals "into" Britain and yet let those against whom there is serious evidence "out", because the General "may not be up to a trial"? Were his victims up to their own torture and deaths?
Bryan Hollamby, Greece

Allende had been democratically elected. However, was he not a Marxist who exploited the coalition of parties which got him elected to radicalise the Chilean economy to centrally planned socialism? Was there not a disastrous collectivisation of agriculture? Was there not runaway inflation which was designed in part to reduce the compensation paid to the former owners of the locally nationalised industries? Was there not nationalisation without any compensation of US economic interests? Was there not, in the end, a state of civil war? And did not Allende bring in a Cuban army to fight the Chilean opposition? Did not Pinochet turn Chile into the most successful market economy in S. America?
Michael Woolgar, United Arab Emirates


Your comments before we went ON AIR

It is amazing to see the so called human rights groups bent on prosecuting a sick old man to ensure that he dies in jail while at the same time fighting for the release of criminals from duly awarded death sentences. Something seems horribly wrong with this picture.
John Jonas

Here in the US, England's pursuit of Pinochet seems more motivated by politics than justice. Castro shot his enemies in a soccer stadium, continues to rule Cuba as dictator, but is welcome to visit the UK as a liberal icon. Only Pinochet, a right winger who exchanged dictatorship for immunity, is snatched by Tony Blair's liberal government when he visits for medical treatment. Pinochet is no hero, but compared to England's coddling of Castro, he certainly appears to be the victim of selective justice.
Kurt Steiner, Tallahassee, Florida, USA

So, Jack Straw says General Pinochet is a sick man. Tell us something we didn't already know. And perhaps he should remember that making awkward situations just "disappear" was also Pinochet's favourite tactic.
Dr. M.J. Grant, Berlin

The issue of fitness to stand trial is based on well-tried, justiciable criteria.  In all modern legal systems, it is a status which is determined judicially, following a formal and public hearing of evidence received under oath.  There is no need for political intervention, as the judicial process provides substantive and procedural protection for those, in law, unfit.
Del Atwood, Senior Crown Attorney (Western), Corner Brook Newfoundland Canada

Arkan and Pinochet: birds of a feather. The Chileans want Pinochet back so that they can sweep all of his crimes under the proverbial rug. Send the monster to Spain for trial.
B J Zajac, USA

The military plane that is likely to take Pinochet home to Chile has to make a required fuel stop. Because new international arrest warrants are likely to be issued, it is of great importance where the plane will stop for refuelling. Chilean media reports that secret plans are made to land the plane in Bermuda, because British law applies there!! So it seems the whole world is hunting a mass murderer but Britain is offering him immunity from prosecution by allowing him to land in Bermuda!! Please Jack don't pretend it is a non-political decision.
Harald Sprenger, Netherlands

It is a scandal to even debate about whether Pinochet should simply answer questions about the atrocities he committed as head of state.


The present turn of events, since Britain first failed to bundle him up to Spain and the very fact that we are having this discussion, is all a travesty of justice.

John-Okura, Kenya
Just when those of us from growing democracies are beginning to have faith in the international community's ability to send a clear message to potential dictators that they can no longer assume impunity in their exercise of power, this whole pathetic case has emerged that Pinochet should be pardoned on health grounds!

I cannot understand all this sentimentality about ill health, especially about someone whose use of power had no room for such sentimentality when he dealt with those he perceived as opponents.

The present turn of events, since Britain first failed to bundle him up to Spain and the very fact that we are having this discussion, is all a travesty of justice.
John-Okura, Nairobi, Kenya

As there are serious charges against Sgr Pinochet, there should be full disclosure of all relevant information, to all interested parties, including medical records, in arriving at a decision.

Sgr Pinochet has already compromised his privacy by making available his medical records to the British government. There is, therefore, no intrusion into his privacy if this medical information is also shared with others having an interest in this case. Neither the British media nor the British government nor the British medical establishment seem to respect Ms Myra Hindley's privacy.
Mohansingh, Kingston on Thames

Once again, the United Kingdom is faced with a choice - to let a suspected international human rights criminal go free, or to start the ball rolling in his prosecution. Is this the beginning of a dangerous precedent ?
Daniel Muchow, Australia

General Pinochet should be tried for the crimes of which he stands accused so that he can be vindicated or condemned. It is not clear that Spain or Britain or any one nation should take on the burden of judgement when it appears that the accuser is really the international (Western) community of peoples. Where is international justice in this process?
G Anderson, Australia

If General Pinochet is allowed to Chile he will almost certainly escape justice. It seemed convenient for Jack Straw and the government that the legal issues rolled along while threats of war crime tribunals were made against Slobodan Milosovic. It appears that British justice may be "the best that money can buy" but it is now time to let Spanish justice decide.
Maurice, England

The decision not to divulge the medical record of Pinochet to Spanish physicians puzzles me. Is it because the general is no longer able to comprehend what is said in a court case? Is it a trial balloon to see what worldwide reaction will be? The lack of a public trial prevents world citizens and certainly the victims of repression to discover the truth about the general's role in untold suffering. The decision leaves the quest for human rights unresolved and thus utterly painful for those concerned.
K. Hanhart, The Netherlands

I am favourable to the indictment and trial of general Pinochet on one condition: That he and the other living dictators, communist and non communist, in power or not, who have allegedly committed crimes against humanity, be indicted and possibly brought to justice to an international court of justice recognised at least by the majority of democratic countries, say the Hague's court. This in my opinion would serve justice and deter state terror.
Giovanni De Lord


I think that it is utterly absurd that Pinochet should be allowed to avoid trial simply because of his health.

Santiago Steele, Argentina

I am extremely disappointed by Mr. Straw´s decision to let Pinochet go free. I think that it is utterly absurd that Pinochet should be allowed to avoid trial simply because of his health. The well documented attrocities committed under his command in Chile are an affront to international justice and human rights, and must be addressed, whether Pinochet is ultimately convicted or not. It is well known that upon his return to Chile, Pinochet is extremely unlikely to face justice.
Santiago Steele, Argentina

Crime is crime and any criminal should definitely pay for his crime regardless of his/her age or health. We all know that those notorious dictators committed ruthless crimes against humanity and subsequently they should not expect any mercy. Thousands were tortured and murdered .I profoundly stand on the opinion that Pinochet should be extradited to Chile - not to Spain -to be judged by his crimes because he committed his mass crimes in Chile. I think it is outrageous to free this dreadful dictator for humanitarian reasons. It is not a matter of revenge but I want humanity to couch a deterrent message to all dictators that they may be prosecuted one day
Tarek Hassan, Egypt

If he's not up to facing a short flight to Spain and then a presumably comfortable time there (assuming his wealthy supporters are allowed to rent him another mansion) how is he fit enough to undertake a flight to Chile in a military aircraft, with all the creature comforts that ensues? Come on Jack, publish the medical evidence, or let the Spanish doctors have a look at him.
Gav, Germany

The lawyers for Pinochet questioned the independence of the British Judges when they first decided against Pinochet returning to Chile. Perhaps now its the turn of the Spanish Lawyer to question the independence of the doctors who find Pinochet too ill to go to trial. Maybe they have financial interests in Chile, who knows. Also, how come the British public can be presented with medical facts pertaining to Cherie Blair's choice of birthing - a real betrayal of medical etiquette but cannot be witness to facts which really are a matter of public interest.
CP Meeten, UK

I firmly believe that Pinochet should be extradited because the murder and torture of even one European is a matter concerning European countries and not Chile. Furthermore, he is of obvious sound mind and his physical state is NOT relevant, as it has not been for other war criminals in the past. He is obviously fit enough to endure the long journey back to Chile, why is he then not fit enough to be tried? The trial (or not) of this obvious criminal is a matter for the European countries seeking his extradition and not for the British government, whose only participation in this scenario is to decide whether there is a case for Pinochet to answer. Let the courts of relevant European countries decide.
D. Pino, Kuwait


Chileans and all the other nationals who suffered under Pinochet's regime need to know what happened to their friends and loved ones and this man holds the key to open that door

Dale Fuller, Canada
I am puzzled by this decision taken by Jack Straw. He is "minded to take the view that no purpose would be served by continuing the present extradition proceedings." I am sure that thousands of Chileans inside and outside of Chile could provide his with ample reason to carry out this extradition and deliver him to Spain for a trial. Under Spanish law he would not be condemned to imprisonment or death for reason of his age. So that is not a legitimate fear. In Spain he would probably receive the same treatment-and luxuries-that he has enjoyed in England. He would suffer the consequences of his own actions, that is true. As well he should.

Chileans and all the other nationals who suffered under Pinochet's regime need to know what happened to their friends and loved ones and this man holds the key to open that door. That is the purpose, Mr. Straw. Maybe, if he returns to Chile, he will be brought to account. But I seriously doubt it. And I agree with other writers here who have expressed dismay at the timing-just days before a VERY close election.
Dale Fuller, Canada

I don't get it: Mr Straw ruled that Pinochet can't be extradited to Spain to stand trial because of his health. His secret medical record is also known by the Chilean government but they assured us that G Pinochet will stand trial in Chile!! If he's too ill to stand trial in Spain, he is too ill to stand trial in Chile. I am puzzled by this logic. Anyone else?
A Parks, England


Shame on the UK for the slimy way in which they invited this old man into the country for medical treatment and then arrested him

Ian, UK
Shame on the UK for the slimy way in which they invited this old man into the country for medical treatment and then arrested him. Let him go home - it's not before time.
Ian, UK

Without releasing the details of his medical condition it is hard to make any valued judgement, but it seems that the UK is trying to back out gracefully. Pinochet should be sent to Spain and Spain can then decide if he is fit to stand trial. As already mentioned, if he can get to Chile, he can get to Spain. The UK is going soft just when there was a chance to progress international human rights. Clearly as the Tyson case suggests, there is not one set of rules for all...
John Vance, Briton in USA

It astonishes me that so many people seem to think it is up to the Chileans to try Pinochet. Not only is this plainly wrong as a matter of law, it also betrays an ignorance of Chile's constitution, which effectively meant that he could never be tried. The Frei government has now committed itself to trying him, that would not have happened before he was arrested here. It may well not be possible even now.
Seb, UK

All I can add is that Pinochet is a Chilean citizen. The rest of the world has no business telling Chile what to do. If Pinochet had been able to get the treatment for which he came to the U.K. in the first place, in Chile itself, all this hullabaloo would not have happened. If we want to talk about crimes against humanity, why is it that the British government allows the terrorist Tamil Tigers movement of Sri Lanka to raise money in the U.K. to fight a legitimately elected government in Sri Lanka. You can't have it both ways, you know. Either you're against humanity or you're not...Mr. Blair, there is no THIRD WAY !!!
Steve Cooke, UK


Pinochet has not been found guilty and yet we are acting as if he was already declared as a criminal

Ana Gonzalo, Belgium
Yes, Pinochet should be allowed to go home. I find it incredible that people who are supposed to deal with human rights could behave in such an inhumane way by insisting and insisting on medical assurances, in a old man who is evidently too ill to face a trial. He has not been found guilty and yet we are acting as if he was already declared as a criminal. We are simply little by little killing a man that we have found guilty on basis of a few protesters. What is the strange motivation of Judge Garzon is this? Such an attitude can not be impartial. Let Mr Pinochet return to Chile.
Ana Gonzalo, Belgium

I was a political prisoner of this monster. He never cared for those people that were much older than him then. I personally witnessed the treatment that was given to them. There was never mercy or anything else to alleviate their suffering. I was young - 17 - and there was no mercy for me. Now once more the Britons screw up.
CA, USA

This is Chile's affair, not the rest of the world's. And Spain's claim that they are doing justice for their Spanish citizens killed is ludicrous because when foreign citizens are in another country they do not receive treatment any different from citizens of the country in which they are in, unless they hold diplomatic visas.
Santiago Olazabal Perez, Chile

To those who'd say this was interfering in other nation's business, I'd say "Good! It's about time that nations realised they were no longer relevant. A bit less nationalism, and a bit more understanding, and the world would be a better place to live. And if you're using the Internet to read this, shame on you for not practising what you preach. Next time, get each packet of information stamped at the passport desk before you cross the border, or shut up about national sovereignty."
Jonathan, UK


Pinochet did not take into account the medical history of people that were tortured and killed - so does this mean that we should sink to his level?

Brian Burke, England
This is certainly a tricky case and one that is riddled with problems. Neil Halliday mentioned that Pinochet did not take into account the medical history of people that were tortured and killed - so does this mean that we should sink to his level? I say no, we have laws and they are there for one and all. If you are not able to stand trial for health then you are not able to, it should not matter what trial it is, whether it be genocide of shoplifting. It is also for the reason that laws are for one and all that the medical files can not be released as Malcolm McCandless wishes. How would he like it if the papers published details about his medical conditions if he were in the public eye for some reason or another. For once the government is not having different laws for different people and they should be proud of that. The debate about whether he is guilty or not will rage on as it should but it is neither the place for Spain of Britain to decide his fate.
Brian Burke, England


How can young people learn from the past if the truth is to hidden

James Scobbie, Chile
He should be extradited. The Chilean military have never told the truth, have written their own amnesty, the old settlement is that the strong have got away with murder. Until it is recognised that torture and murder are crimes then the Chilean military and right wing will continue to see it as a "patriotic" option of retaining power. Are we to let all people free of all crimes without even the search for the truth just because some time has passed. How can young people learn from the past if the truth is to hidden since the criminals are too old to be questioned.
James Scobbie, Chile

Pinochet should be extradited, tried and imprisoned. It doesn't matter how socialist the government he overthrew was (with CIA help); he is a merciless, totalitarian torturer who should be made to face his crimes. Illness is no excuse to avoid justice.
J, UK.

From now on, ALL murderers who have an illness or who escape justice until they are over 80 should be let off! What a ridiculous decision! And for all those who say that the UK should not meddle in Chile's affairs, I say "We live in a world in which human rights (should) have no boundaries - but thanks to the likes of Norman Lamont and Thatcher, boundaries to justice still exist, (and to think I actually once voted for them once!)
Rav, USA

Too ill to fly to Spain...Chile is much closer!
Dave Beynon, UK

Let's be fair. Thousands of Chileans were killed under Pinochet's brutal dictatorship. Just think about all those families who lost their loved ones under his regime. Don't give Pinochet any chance to evade justice.
B H Mohammad, UK

There seems to be something wrong in British judicial procedure where the health of a suspect is concerned. After years of weighing various judicial aspects of the case against the suspect Mr Pinochet from Chile, all of a sudden it seems possible that the suspect can be freed on the judgement of some medical doctors. Strange that it seems possible that Mr Pinochet seems to be able to withhold this medical report from further scrutiny. Strange that all of a sudden the Home Secretary can decide all alone on Mr Pinochet's release on the basis of this obscure report. But well, if the suspect Mr Pinochet goes back to his home country, he will be judged there. And it is a good thing that Chile seems to have thrown off its fear of judging this suspect. In Chile Mr Pinochet will have to stand trial without his patroness Mrs Th. watching over him.
Klaas Tjoelker, Netherlands

Let an old man return to his own country and face trial there if necessary- after all it is all about Chile. Again, let's concentrate time and resources to bringing our own criminals to justice- a more fruitful exercise for the UK.
James, UK

If he is not too ill to go home, then he is not too ill to go to Spain. You don't release suspected serial killers because they are ill, so why release a suspected mass murderer. Let the Spanish court determine his guilt or innocence. Spain is not an uncivilised country. I'm sure he will receive a fair trial - especially with the whole world watching. If he is guilty, as I believe he is, then the world needs to know that dictators cannot get away with murdering their citizens.
John Richard Stephens, USA


This case has set a long awaited precedent. They are so many thieving murderers on the African continent who should be on trial. I hope this ruling will not undo the work done.

Beatus, Nigeria
I have been living in Chile since I was born in 1964. So I lived during the government of Mr. Allende and obviously during the government of Mr. Pinochet. I know the truth because I was here but I don't know why people that have never been here during these periods are giving their opinion and judging about the Pinochet case. Let us deal with our own problems and you take care of yours. Look at your own houses first and you'll find things worse. We don't need international supervision.
Leopoldo Flores, Chile

Funny but Pinochet never cared for the health of young and old he tortured and killed, did he?
Naeem Nabi, Canada

A lesson needs to be taught here. No one should be allowed to get away with any sort of human rights violations regardless of what legal codes say. Pinochet should not be allowed to go back to Chile because the Chilean probably won't prosecute him. He needs to be punished for the injustices he committed to the Chilean people and to foreigners in Chile during this dictatorship. An international court of justice should at least try him. No democracy should harbour evil tyrants.
Carlos Zepeda, USA

We can be certain that we are not being told the real reasons for this move. Pinochet's ailments were most likely present when he was arrested over a year ago and those were not an impediment back then. Mr. Straw's hesitation makes his seriousness very questionable.
Javier Amaya, United States

Here in Canada we have received hundreds of Chilean refugees from Pinochet's form of government. Victims all.
Victor Fletcher, Canada


Of course he should stand trial. Can't believe the Blair Government's lack of courage in this. The decision is disgusting. Why are the medical report's findings not being made public?


Leamac, UK
I think most of us have prejudged Pinochet. The whole point of a trial is to determine guilt. Most people seem to want him to go to trial because they believe/hope/want him to be punished. Despite the fact that he may have been nothing short of a monster, we are still a civilised society that holds the right to a fair trial above many other rights. If he has been certified to follow, competently, his own trial, then so be it. The same right that lets him "off the hook" protects thousands of us every year from being put in a situation where we have to fight for our innocence in a reduced capacity. Justice may not always be applied fairly to all, but surely the law should?
Cyrus Medora, United Kingdom

The Chilean Government has taken advantage of Chileans' extreme and pathetic nationalism to sell them the idea that defending the dictator was equated to defending Chilean "sovereignty". Fortunately, the world outside Chile keeps moving in the direction of higher ethical and human values. The decision not to extradite Pinochet is, admitedly, a setback in this movement. But now is the time to keep a close watch on Chile: will Pinochet be put to trial, as the top Chilean Government officials have cynically and publicly pretended that he would when in Chile?
Jose Miguel, Chile

Pinochet is unfit to stand trial, is what I heard. My God, tell Jack Straw that when P. cannot stand trial, by all means he should SIT or eve LIE trial. If he is to ill to travel to Spain, he certainly cannot travel to Chile. Years ago we had in our country the ominous 'three of Breda'. One of them, Willy Lages, was said to be too ill to stay in prison and subsequently was released to Germany. There he was received as a hero and a martyr. His health was miraculously restored. Is this what must happen to Pinochet? Never!
Pieter Heitlager, Netherlands


Is there such a thing as crimes against humanity which warrant disregarding the citizenship of the defendant? The precedent of the Nuremberg trials indicate that the answer is 'Yes'.

Miland Joshi, UK
It seems to me that whether Pinochet should stand trial depends on two things. (a) Is there such a thing as crimes against humanity which warrant disregarding the citizenship of the defendant? The precedent of the Nuremberg trials indicate that the answer is 'Yes'. (b) How is the law to be applied with respect to someone's fitness to stand trial? If the international conventions here do not in fact spell this out, then it would seem that English law applies here, since Pinochet has not been granted immunity from arrest as an accredited diplomat. If Jack Straw has followed due process under English law and concluded that Pinochet is unfit to stand trial, then I think he should be returned to Chile.
Miland Joshi, UK

Pinochet is responsible for many deaths. He tortured and maimed, had opponents thrown out of planes. A friend's fiancee was hung upside down and beaten to death. Another friend of mine was abducted and tortured for 40 days. Neither were dangerous activists but ordinary people. In answer to 'Dave of Bournemouth' Melita Norwood did not torture & murder anyone, and was perfectly prepared to stand trial. Pinochet is an evil and odious barbarian who should stand trial. However if he is mentally unfit, we should not try him. To do so would be a breach of Human rights. However, I am not convinced that he is senile. I suspect shades of Ernest Guinness. I think that the Spanish Authorities should have the opportunity to have their own doctors to examine him. Spain is now a civilised democracy and has similar standards of Justice to the UK, and many of their citizens were tortured and murdered by Pinochet's regime. They should have the right to decide whether to try Pinochet.
Harriet Jodelka, UK

If sombody is too ill or too old to stand prison, I'm all for home arrest, or even freedom. But I see no reason why he or she should not be tried, and I certainly don't see why they should not be extradited. The UK set a great example of civil decency arresting that monster. If it lets him go, on what look suspiciously like grounds of political opportunity, it will be a shame.
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan , Italy


Outrageous! Were the thousands of innocent people tortured and murdered under his dictatorship allowed to go free if they were a little sick.

Dom Giles, Colombia
Everybody loves to talk about violations to human rights in Chile during Pinochet's government. What about the innocent people that were killed by leftist terrorists? Didn't they have human rights? What about Pinochet, old, ill and in a foreign country; Does he have human rights?
F. B. Antunez, Chile

I am a Chilean living here in the UK. This whole deal does not surprise anyone. Pinochet still has strong support in Chile. It is sad to see Britain having to deal with Pinochet when this is a matter for Chileans only. Spain has no right over any South American country, colonialism and paternalism have no place and will never have in Chile.
Dario Leal, Northern Ireland


If Britain's concern was to maintain stability in Chile and for it's democratisation process - why does it break the news of General Pinochet's return only five days before presidential elections in the country?

Anna Henrika Harkko, Chile
If Britain's concern was to maintain stability in Chile and for it's democratisation process - why does it break the news of General Pinochet's return only five days before presidential elections in the country? It was obvious that the two governments had negotiated his return long before but I am still puzzled by the timing. Sending General Pinochet back will force Chile for the first time to make a serious effort to polish its international reputation. Unfortunately, due to a very complicated legal system, this process could have never been started in the country itself which now faces the inability of solving its past once again.
Anna Henrika Harkko, Chile

Would the Home Office have let Hitler go free based on the same grounds? The only grim difference between Pinochet and Hitler is that the latter killed more innocent people than Pinochet.
Eric Gamboa, USA

With all the letters of my name I stand on the opinion that Pinochet should extradited to Spain to be judged by his crimes, not to say if he`s healthy enough. How many people does he have to assist him and how many people assist those who were tortured for years?
Jesús Ruiz Flores, México


This case has produced landmark rulings that will ensure that these dreadful people will think twice before leaving their countries.

Kieran Maule, Mexico
While it is undoubtedly galling and indeed ironic that a brutal dictator like Pinochet is to be freed for humanitarian reasons, I feel we should also consider the wider issues. Firstly, this case has produced landmark rulings that will ensure that these dreadful people will think twice before leaving their countries. Furthermore, we should consider its impact on other Latin American nations also scourged by dictatorships during the 1970's. In the case of Argentina, many of the leading murderers, namely Videla, Massera et al, are now pending trial for their crimes. Likewise, the Argentine government has and is continuing to pay compensation to victims, and has formally acknowledged the psychological torture undergone for so many years by victims families and relatives. While these measures may well be considered as palliatives, they nonetheless provide international recognition of disgusting measures like Operation Condor and the sequels of the dictatorships. Fortunately, the protagonists of these horrendous events are, and will be considered as pariahs. Thus, although I fully understand the just indignation of victims and their families at the release of Pinochet, some consolation may be derived from the fact that important progress has been made, and indispensable legal precedents set for mankind.
Kieran Maule, Mexico

General Pinochet supported this country during the Falklands War. Melita Norwood betrayed it during World War 2. Both are of similar age, both guilty of causing many deaths. A left-wing government in the UK arrests one when it has no interest in the case but leaves the other in peace even though she sold out her own country, the country that the present government is supposed to defend. The reason is perfectly clear. Ideologically this government agrees with treason when helping out a left-wing dictatorship but despises brutality when practiced by a right-wing dictatorship in difficult and unfamiliar circumstances. Shame on all of Blair's puppets.
Matthew Knowles, UK

Mr Shaw took a very brave decision, defying as he did the prevailing attitude hostile to Mr. Pinochet. I believe he should be tried for the crimes he committed but many world leaders, past and present, should also face an International tribunal for violating human rights the world all over.
Mario Rossi, Italy

The decision of British doctors should not be taken as a basis to determine the fate of Pinochet, one of 20th century's worst human rights violators. Instead, an international panel of physicians must be assigned to review the decision. Before that, physicians, and and international human rights experts should come to a consensus about what is the minimum health condition for someone to stand in genocide trials. What if physicians, on their own, decide, that having a flu may already be too much?
Oliver Loode, Estonia

For whatever reason Mr Straw has come to his decision it couldn't have come at a worse time for democracy in Chile; This weekend Chileans must vote for their next government, it is between a Pinochet supporter called Lavin and a socialist, Ricardo Lagos. Since Pinochet allegedly relinquished power all elections in Chile have gone the way of right wing Pinochet supporters. When I was in Chile six months ago rumours were circulating about the possibility of another coup should the socialists return to power, sending Pinochet back now will give credence to the rumour makers, not to mention the publicity gains for the right wing.
Gerry Knight, Ireland

He should have been home all this time. There should definitely be an upper age limit when you can still charge people who are suspected for old crimes. Or do we believe that an 84 year old ex. President of a country is still acute danger to us? Or do we believe an 86 year old person who was part of a political movement and possibly did what he was told to do is an acute danger. I think the one who believes is an acute danger to his/hers mental shape.
Mikko Toivonen Finland

Disgraced Guinness boss Ernest Saunders got out of jail by having Alzheimer's disease. He miraculously recovered. It'll be interesting if poor old Augusto gains a spring in his step when he returns to Chile.
Victor Houghton, England

If he is too ill to stand trial, he is too ill to stand trial.
Judith, Britain

Pinochet should not get off so lightly on the pretence that his health is failing. This does not atone for his crimes and murders. He is guilty and must be punished under the law. Send him to Spain to be tried. Chile never had the guts to confront Pinochet before Spain took action.
Ode, UK


General Pinochet should never have been arrested in this country for alleged offences which have nothing to do with us.

Gervas Douglas, UK
General Pinochet should never have been arrested in this country for alleged offences which have nothing to do with us. The UK and Spain have acted in an arrogant neo-colonialist manner. This is a matter for Chile and no other country to decide. All Jack Straw has achieved is to waste a lot of British taxpayers' money and alienate a proven South American ally and trading partner; then perhaps the latent student politician in him could never forgive a man for rescuing his country from a Marxist putsch.
Gervas Douglas, UK

Why doesn't Mr. Straw come clean and give the real reasons for Pinochet's release? The fact, to Britain's eternal shame, is that we supported his regime, at first covertly and then overtly. We helped train his army, and helped to equip it too, we supported him economically and then politically. Perhaps Mr Straw is simply displaying that British trait of not betraying a friend. It must also be the first time ever that Lady Thatcher has been in total agreement with this Labour government. In light of the many and various atrocities around the world since 1973 it seems a great discredit to the victims that their murders are forgotten or at best irrelevant.
Edward Parker, Italy

It seems ironic that Pinochet will escape being put on trial by using the in built compassion of our legal system, when he denied so many people their basic human rights.
Matthew McDonald, UK


Would the UK have accepted the same humanitarian reasons for people like M. Bormann, Hermann Göring or A. Jodl of the former Naxi regime not to stand trial in the Nuremberg Trials after the second world war?

Matthias Gildemeister, Germany
Would the UK have accepted the same humanitarian reasons for people like M. Bormann, Hermann Göring or A. Jodl of the former Naxi regime not to stand trial in the Nuremberg Trials after the second world war? I just can't understand this caring behaviour now (from the UK Government) for a man who is personally and politically responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Chilian people. "Humanitarian grounds" were not on the governmental agenda in the UK when it could have influenced politically the change of a bloody and terrorising dictatorship during the years of Pinochet rule.
Matthias Gildemeister, Germany

This decision is long overdue. Pinochet left his country in far better shape than when he took over, unlike his predecessor Allende. He also provided vital assistance to our forces during the Falklands War, thereby saving British lives. If he committed any crimes in Chile, it is for the Chileans to try him; it is not our business to be the World's policeman.
Sean Fear, United Kingdom

Pinochet's lawyers have never said that the General denies any of the charges against him, instead they dance between the lines of the law to get him to safety in Chile. There is no excuse for genocide.
Wayne Creegan, England

The UK Government has messed up over Pinochet from day one. When the extradition order first arrived during Pinochet's visit, he should have been sent packing using the wide discretion of the Home Secretary. Yes, Pinochet was a brutal dictator, but it was always up to Chile how the matter was dealt with. The way we have handled this affair is a gross insult to Chilean sovereignty.
Richard Marriott, England

We decide that Milosevic should be punished and that Radic and the others from Bosnia should be hunted. We go to war against Saddam. In all these cases we have risked the lives of our own people in the interests of peace, democracy, freedom etc. Now we are willing to sacrifice these "high" principles by letting this man go free without being held accountable for his actions. This is surely something to do with the hidden extreme right-wing in Britain, members of which secretly continue to exercise huge influence and power over the establishment of the country.
Geraint, Belgium


This affair is another example of our governments breathtaking incompetence, hypocrisy and poorly orchestrated political opportunism

Keith Stuart, England
This affair is another example of our governments breathtaking incompetence, hypocrisy and poorly orchestrated political opportunism. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the Pinochet case, he had already visited the UK under the present administration and they did nothing, so allowing him to return could be seen as entrapment. We wait with bated breath for Blair and his sixth form debating society to come up with their next wizard wheeze and at what cost to the taxpayer.
Keith Stuart, England

So much for the freedom of information. Here we have a situation where there is no doubt that it is in the public interest that the details surrounding the considered opinions of the doctors concerning the health of Chilean dictator Pinochet should be released. The fact that they are not and the agreement put forward that to do so slights the eminence of such physicians is a scandal. We must remember in response that 'men of straw' don't have minds when asked to make decisions they simply wash their hands of them. Margaret Thatcher must be proud of this UK Home Secretary.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

So he's too ill to go on trial. Wonderful. What about all those who were murdered by his regime? I hope the Spanish try him in his absence.
Roy Culley, Switzerland

The doctors have no right to supply Jack Straw with more than objective information on Pinochet's condition. They cannot declare unequivocally that he is unfit to stand trial. If I claim that unless he is completely senile, it is morally imperative to admit Pinochet, that is an ethical view that does not admit of scientific refutation. It ought to be for the Spanish courts to decide.
Phil Grant, UK

Ill or not, why are we still footing the enormous bill for harbouring this butcher. If he is too 'ill' to 'stand' trial, then let him be tried in his absence.
Simon Humphries, UK

How typical of the whinging leftists. You didn't hear any complaints from them when Melita Norwood was declared to be unfit for trial. Let the General go home to Chile. It is up to the Chileans to deal with him.
Dave, Bournemouth, UK

The arrest of Pinochet and institution of extradition proceedings have had amazing and beneficial repercussions - throughout the world, ex-dictators and war criminals are now afraid to travel. Contrary to what Pinochet's supporters say, the arrest has brought great credit to the British justice system and to the Home Secretary personally for the way the case has been handled.
Gaby Charing, UK

When someone who has committed many crimes is available to trial - you should trial him, regardless of health. It sets an example of what can happen if you do such bad things. If Hitler was around now - wouldn't you trial him?
William Burnett, Great Britain

It may be a naive thing to say, but did the 'Senator' take into account the medical history of any of his victims?
Neil Halliday, England


I was not aware that anyone could be "too ill" to stand trial. Punishment, perhaps, yes, too ill for, but the real issues are evidence and justice. I can't see how anyone can be too ill to stand trial.

Paul Rushworth, UK
Firstly, there should be no limitation on prosecution, whether it's age or health. However, this whole Pinochet case is different from many others as usually world leaders and former world leaders are given immunity from these things. This breach of international convention by Jack Straw already compromised Britain's standing in the world. Can you imagine if countries start arresting former leaders of other countries? What if, for example, Lithuania charged Mikhail Gorbachev with masterminding the Vilnius and Medininkai massacres and asks German authorities to extradite? It just breaches a norm. So this issue is hard to deal with, as two very different and diverging issues are at stake here. Let the Chileans deal with Pinochet - they are the only ones that should have jurisdiction anyway.
Mel Huang, Estonia

Why should it be our decision about whether Pinochet is to ill to stand trial? Why don't we extradite him to Spain and let them make any medical decisions? Otherwise I see this as being yet another failure of our modern legal system - if you are rich enough and old enough you can get away you can get away with anything!!
Ron Redfern, England

Yet again our Government has bent the rules to suit its own requirements. Regardless of whether he is ill or not, he should stand trial. But the decision is nothing new, after all, we release terrorists who torture and murder, we jail a celebrity for only a few weeks for being a paedophile and we allow a spy to get away with total betrayal of her country even though her actions may well have cost the lives of dozens if not hundreds of people. What next? Liam Neeson for mayor of London perhaps. It seems to be the British way.
Pete, Scotland


Mr. Straw is right and Mr. Pinochet should be released as soon as possible. Actually I had never agreed with his detention in UK. Real dictator behaves in quite different way, he never abdicate!!!

Mr. Jiri Becvar, Czech Republic
Although I think General Pinochet should have been punished a long time ago, it is probably too late now. If he is too ill to stand trial then trying him now is a form of torture. We should be setting an example on how to act compassionately, not trying to take revenge on a sick man who will probably be dead soon anyway. We should learn are lessons from this affair and in the future, take action a lot sooner against people like General Pinochet, stopping them from committing these acts, rather than waiting until it is too late.
Simon Robinson, England

Why doesn't Europe leave Chile's affairs to the Chileans and deal with their own problems such as Swiss banks, ETA and the IRA? Chile can determine its own course and we don't need Spain to mitigate in our problems. Europe should not interfere in Latin America's problems.
Jose Torres Caceres, Chile

Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, terrorised Chile and murdered more than 3,000 innocent people. He is a fascist thug who deserves no mercy. Extradite him to Spain and bring this murderer to trial!
Zoe Richardson, England


This was an opportunity to make a point to the world that dictators and ors and ruthless leaders will be made to stand trial for their deeds.

James Sinden, New Zealand
This was an opportunity to make a point to the world that dictators and ruthless leaders will be made to stand trial for their deeds. Now it sends a completely different message. The sad fact is that the opportunity to try these "leaders" will usually only come when they are old and no longer in power. If their physical condition is then seen as a reason to throw out the case then we might as well not bother. This ruling sends a message to all dictators - keep up the good work but don't forget to catch the flu when finally cornered. Age and health should be no barrier to justice.
James Sinden, New Zealand

The home secretary is correct to release Pinochet; however, he never should have been detained to begin with. Chile has made a relatively peaceful transition to prosperity and democracy. It was Allende's Socialist Party which declared in 1971 that the task at hand was "to destroy parliament" and that Allende himself was seriously considering arming leftist guerrillas. At the time of the coup in 1973 Chile had by far the highest inflation in the world. In short, the Allende regime had single-handedly destroyed the social and economic order of his country and was planning his own left wing coup. Only the most troglodyte foreign leftists mourn his passing. Would the supporters of trial for Pinochet in Spain be as ardent if it were Castro who was to be called to the dock in America for his crimes?
Peter Plotts, USA

Almost all heads of state recieve the best medical care in the world. To say that Pinochet is too ill to stand trial is blatant arrogance towards the families of thousands of the disappeared people in Chile. He does not have to be in court, but let him be tried for his crimes against humanity.
Dipta , USA

Pinochet has to go back to Chile. Not because he is unfit to stand trial, but because this person commited crimes in Chile, not in Spain. But he must stand trial in Chile. The point is that South American states have to assume their responsibilities and let the world know that they are mature and can cope with their key problems. Is the Chilean state capable of managing this? I hope so.
Gustavo Bernasconi, Argentina

It simply is not a decision for the English to make. Unless he is too sick to travel, which I doubt, it is the Spanish who will try him - let them decide if he is to take the stand. All the English have to do is put him in a taxi.
Paul Stuitje, New Zealand

Ill or healthy, a mass murderer like Pinochet should stand trial - the victims will feel vindicated and know justice, though delayed, has been done.
Deepak, Canada

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