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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 09:35 GMT
Pinochet: Is Jack Straw right?

UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced that he will not extradite the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet on torture charges.

The pinochet File
Mr Straw had already said in January he was "minded" to allow the general to go free, after medical experts said he was unfit to stand trial.

Is the home secretary right to release General Pinochet? Should the battle to extradite the general now end?


Your Reaction


Mr Straw may wish to advise Tony Blair to be careful when next overseas.

David Bewley, Australia
Pinochet's guilt or innocence was never the issue. If he is to be prosecuted, this responsibility lies with Chile. It is wrong for one state to detain and prosecute a citizen of another for crimes allegedly committed within the latter's jurisdiction.
Jack Straw's ill-considered actions have been flawed from the outset, bringing shame on Britain and tarnishing its reputation for fairness and justice. The precedents set are far-reaching and dangerous. Mr Straw may wish to advise Tony Blair to be careful when next overseas: detention, extradition and prosecution for human rights violations related to the bombing of civilians in Kosovo cannot be ruled out.
David Bewley, Australia

Nazi criminals are still facing trial all over the world for what they did during the Second World War despite the fact that most of them are facing the end of their mortal lives. And Jack Straw let Pinochet go just because he's supposed to be medically unfit? Where is justice?
Sue Ong, Germany

I strongly support the decision made by Mr. J Straw. It is right and just. Gen Pinochet is a hero who saved his country from the real fascist - the Marxist government. Look how Chile looks now and compare with other countries in the region that had the opportunity to experience such ideology.
Krzysztof Szyszkiewicz, Poland


I am still remembering patients badly traumatised by Pinochet's army who I treated in London.

David Bussé, UK
As a Spanish doctor working in the UK I am still remembering patients badly traumatised by Pinochet's army who I treated in London. As a Spanish citizen I remember my mother with democratically elected Dr Salvador Allende's photo in a magazine during Franco's Spanish "blacktimes end" crying and telling me why she felt unhappy.
I admire British medicine, democracy and respect for human rights but there is differences between not being able to stand for trial and be scared of losing the sell of a 2 billion ship or hosting and returning poor refugees with scarce social welfare and healthy conditions back to their inhuman dictatorships' lands. For our children's future I hope the world's politicians and power men won't let these human injustices happen again.
David Bussé, UK

These facts cannot be stressed enough: Three highly reputed doctors and one unreputed neuro-psychiatrist (whose one-hour examination proved decisive) declared Pinochet mentally unfit for trial. These doctors were said to have 'no undue interest in the case'.
Jack Straw poo-pooed nine, highly respected Spanish, and four such Belgian doctors who were able to contest the report against his wishes, who unanimously concluded Pinochet WAS fit for trial and the exams insufficient.
He said there was more evidence to be taken into account, supplied by Pinochet's OWN doctors. Whether these doctors had 'undue interest in the case' was no longer deemed important. Straw is a fraud.
Nicholas Csergo, UK

As expected the British Govt. has set Pinochet free. It was quite surprising that they decided to pick on him alone and not the many others who have been accused of similar crimes and continue to regularly shop at Harrods and maintain bank accounts and holiday homes in several European cities. Moral bankruptcy, hypocrisy, inconsistency....call it what we will - but anyone who follows how the world order is structured will understand that the British Home Minister could not be expected to have kept Pinochet from being sent home. All a show and a sham that should have been expected, and hardly any nation would have behaved any differently! Can anyone imagine any country in the world trying Idi Amin for the crimes he has been accused of - he lives and moves around quite freely.
Rajni Chavda, Bhutan

Jack Straw made a very bad decision but how can anyone condone what Margaret Thatcher did? Just lost all the respect I had for the Iron Lady.
Charles Dique, USA

The most repeated argument here for condemn Gral. Pinochet arrest in UK has been: Do you, British, Spanish, whatever, have the moral right to interfere our business when you haven't had the same disposition in similar situations? (e.g. Spain and Franco). I think that's not the question. Otherwise no criminal would be ever judged. So, what is the question? Maybe what is less bad? To let a criminal go free (because I'm sure there will be no justice in this country), aiming for consistency or to allow a powerful country to put the boot once again into one like ours? I vote for (as I read on one of your newspapers) "the opening of a new era of justice".
Carolina Beattie, Chile

In their lack of arguments to defend Pinochet, the British right argues that the General "saved hundreds of English lives". Could any body elaborate and explain how was that number found? If not, stop repeating such obscene idea and recognise that you do not care a bit about human rights.
Miguel Beher, USA

Why is everybody surprised by the Pinochet issue? He didn't look very ill or afraid of being back in Chile. The British Government regardless of party will cover dodgy dealings done in the past, in order to protect themselves. As for the medical team that diagnosed him as unfit to stand because of some form of dementia or physical frailty should be asked to publicly defend their diagnosis, and the records should be shown, but I would be a fool to think that will happen.
Joe Muller, England

Jack Straw may have succeeded indirectly by returning Pinochet to Chile on health grounds. He literally sent him to face the music of the Chilean justice system. Recent reports in Chile show that the justice system there may have gotten teeth enough to take Pinochet on legally. What would Pinochet do if declared "insane" under Chilean law? That is worse than a death sentence to a man and the military he led.
Ed Edet, USA (Nigerian)


How thoughtful of Mrs. Thatcher to have given Gen. Pinochet a replica silver plate commemorating Sir Francis Drake's victory over the Spanish Armada.

Jose Reynaldo, USA
How thoughtful of Mrs. Thatcher to have given Gen. Pinochet a replica silver plate commemorating Sir Francis Drake's victory over the Spanish Armada upon his departure, in celebration of the General's return to Chile, "to ensure that Spain's attempts to impose judicial colonialism have been firmly rebuffed." I wonder if perhaps the former Prime Minister is considering similar awards for Mr. Milosevic, Mr. Hussein, or the peoples of the formerly occupied territories North of London for equally rebuffing certain other countries' colonial domination attempts.
Jose Reynaldo, USA

Jack Straw is a BUFFOON!! He made such a "show" out of arresting Pinochet - then screwed the British taxpayer for his stupid show-boating! This is the SAME Jack Straw who - as a student - joined anti-Pinochet marches!
Ken, USA

Pinochet was a fascist as proved by his policies of letting murderous Ustase and Nazi war criminals seek refuge in his country. He ruined the lives of many people and should stand trial without a question.
Branislav Dragisic, Srbska Bosna, Yugoslavia

Mr Straw recently declared that he would wish to be judged on his political performance on race relations: unfortunately, I believe he will be judged and remembered as the one who let one of the biggest criminals and mass murderers in history go unpunished.
Cristina, UK

Who's going to pick up the bill? $15m and counting - as Spain/Belgium etc wanted to keep him here maybe they want to pay?
Andrew Davis, UK in USA

If Pinochet is indeed medically unfit to stand trial, it would be a violation of his human rights to try him. If we disregard the human rights of even the worst criminals, we become like them, and any moral battle has already been lost before it has begun.
Duncan Pasley, England

Remember the folk singer Victor Jara, loved by the Chilean poor, electrocuted by Pinochet's troops, his guitarists hands smashed with rifle butts, his machine gunned body thrown onto the streets of Santiago like rubbish. Shame on Jack Straw, shame on New labour. May the Families of the Disappeared find some justice one day.
Joe Carolan, Ireland

I can't believe people are condemning a man that prevented Chile from being the next Cuba.
David Sleeter, USA


New Labour have blown it yet again

Barry Tregear, England
Surely the country that wanted to try him (Spain) should decide on his fitness or otherwise to stand trial ? Jack Straw had no need to ask for medical tests and we can only suppose that he wanted a quick way out of this and ultimately did not have the stomach to stand up to the right-wing forces that demanded that Pinochet go free. This was the best chance we've had to get a dictator tried for his crimes and New Labour have blown it yet again.
Barry Tregear, England

The Chileans are peace-loving people, they are capable and aware of the true value of democracy, so I think that they will be able to bridge the gap in their unity, and the few days after the decision of UK Home Secretary proved that the Chilean family is civilized, and trust the wisdom of its government and its elected president.
Nasif Rafiq, Palestine

Personally I think Mr. Straw has made the worst mistake ever. Nobody knows, except for the people who have lived under a dictatorship how much they have suffered living in such a regime. It's said the former dictator saved many English lives during the Falkland war but Argentina saved millions of lives in England and Europe during the World War II by sending beef almost free and nobody said anything about it. General Pinochet is a murderer. Mr. Straw does not have a sense of justice at all.
Ruben, Argentina


I feel sick that the UK has been conned.

Alasdair Cameron, Scotland
The sight of Pinochet leaping out of his wheelchair at Santiago was sickening. It did not take more than a few minutes for the medical authorities in Chile to declare the mass murderer quite fit. I feel sick that the UK has been conned. And, I hope Thatcher thinks twice before she goes abroad after what she did to the Belgrano.
Alasdair Cameron, Scotland

The English taxpayer has wasted quite enough money and time on this issue as was the intention of our continental cousins as usual to have a good laugh at our expense, Just as France will not extradite David Shayler, we will not extradite the general and finally jack straw has done the only thing he could do.
D.TYLER, England


I know that in Chile there is no justice, it's a shame to realise that in England there isn't any either.

Ricardo, USA
I am Chilean, and I can tell you many of us left Chile because of Pinochet. He ruled with an iron fist, and massacred about 20,000 people. Many of us left, including my family. We were not Communists, nor left wing, we just lived under a horrible dictatorship in constant fear of being killed by his generals. Pinochet had no remorse for children nor the elderly. Now Jack Straw has released this butcher for a few more dollars and better diplomatic relationships. I know that in Chile there is no justice, it's a shame to realise that in England there isn't any either.
Ricardo, USA

Jack Straw has been made to look like a clown. Pinochet, the lying, murdering, arrogant dictator whose "failing health" prevented him from standing trial in Spain walks unaided up the stairs of his aircraft. What a different image to the frail old man seen being helped into his car to go to the hospital for his tests. And, after such a long and gruelling trans-Atlantic flight back to Chile, we all witnessed his miraculous cure; the General saluting his troops, his victory over the English complete. One up to Fascism Mr Straw, time for you to step down, or at least admit that you were wrong. Perhaps you were more effective as a student, or perhaps it's only a case of absolute power corrupting, absolutely!
Samuel P Liff, Spain

Plain and simple: the release of this monster marks the moral bankruptcy of the British government. But that's not saying anything. My own government kept its mouth firmly shut while all of this was going on.
Stijn de Jong, The Netherlands

Two points
1) Chile is a democracy now and has a right to settle its own affairs, the actions of the British and Spanish authorities have been obscene.
2) It is sad to see so many people who appear to think of themselves as decent urging decency and law to be put to one side now that they have found someone they wish to torment!
Ed Green, UK


If he was detained because of Spain's indictment, why not let them decide his competency?

Shaun Richardson, USA
Why the secrecy regarding the medical information concerning Pinochet's competency to stand trial? If he was detained because of Spain's indictment, why not let them decide his competency? The argument that Chile must resolve it's own problems is an affront to the families that have lost loved ones all over the world to this tyrant.
Shaun Richardson, USA

No, Jack Straw should have stuck to the verdict of the law lords. In allowing Pinochet to return to Chile a free man, he has shown how weak the justice system is in Britain - that one man can overturn the decision of a respected institution.
Mun Ching, Malaysia


I don't understand what people mean when they accuse Jack Straw of weakness over Pinochet.

Simon, Belgium
I don't understand what people mean when they accuse Jack Straw of weakness over Pinochet. Surely the easy way out for Straw would have been to approve Pinochet's extradition to Spain?
Unless, of course, he had been under intense pressure from those very governments with a clear vested interest in seeing the General returned home - Spain, Belgium, France et al. Does anybody believe those governments really wanted to put Pinochet on trial?
Let's not forget this whole business was started by a Spanish judge, not the Spanish Government. British hypocrisy? Not in this case, I think.
Simon, Belgium

I would love to see Pinochet tried and found guilty. But where would it end? Fidel Castro, F.W. de Klerk, Gorbachov? All are guilty of ordering murder and torture. We have to strengthen world democracy so that murderous leaders such as these are never seen again.
Cooper, Luxembourg


He should not be allowed to hide behind his ill health.

Ian Harriss, United Kingdom
Jack Straw should be ashamed of himself. Pinochet's hands drip with blood and he should not be allowed to hide behind his ill health. Also if he had allowed the extradition of Pinochet to Spain he was sending him to a democracy not a dictatorship. If Pinochet is innocent, as he claims, then he had nothing to be scared of. Is this now to become a standard way of dodging justice?
Ian Harriss, United Kingdom

Right decision by Jack Straw. Forget the political debate, after all, Pinochet helped Britain in Falkland War and no doubt saved many British lives.
Hem Pun, Nepal

Disgusting, depressing, reprehensible. abhorrent, demoralising.
It suggests there are circumstances in which Shaw would have let Hitler get away with "it". A gloomy day for those who prize justice.
Warren Abrams, USA


We cannot forget the principles upon which our society is based, which includes the right to a fair trial.

Neil Wykes, United Kingdom
Although it pains me to see this man leave, we cannot forget the principles upon which our society is based, which includes the right to a fair trial. Maybe he's manipulated the system, or maybe it's true and his health has deteriorated, but we cannot drop his rights in the same way he did to others. We cannot take that risk.
It has meant that we have seen Margaret Thatcher in a light many of us suspected was always there!
Neil Wykes, United Kingdom

Today we clearly see that there are two types of dictators. The ones that are protected by the USA (and friends UK, etc....) and the unprotected. For me the biggest dictators are the protecting governments because they are hidden.
Thanasios Metallidis, Belgium

General Pinochet should have been tried by The Hague International Tribunal, since his crimes have allegedly been committed when Chile was 'in danger of falling to international communism'. Kissinger and the CIA should be charged too.
Hans Versluys, New Zealand

If the allied forces had captured Adolf Hitler during the second world war and he had complained of being too ill to stand trial..... Would we have let him go free? This is the biggest error of judgement the British government has made since the Mad Cow fiasco.
R. Drinkall, Denmark


This is a dark day for Britain, for justice, for human rights everywhere.

Nyegosh Dube, Poland
Jack Straw should have boarded that plane with Pinochet. His decision is contemptible as is his concern for Pinochet's health. This supposedly sick old man made sure that thousands of young people in Chile did not get a chance to grow old. What a circus it's been: Pinochet was certainly healthy enough for trial back in 1998 but Britain prevented his extradition to Spain. Now - after nearly a year and a half - Pinochet's health has (allegedly) deteriorated giving Straw an excuse to send him back. This is a dark day for Britain, for justice, for human rights everywhere.
Nyegosh Dube, Poland

A very difficult case for Jack Straw to handle. While his decision saddens me it's not totally surprising. What is outrageous however, is the Tories comments about Pinochet. If they want to publicly support people with a total disregard for human rights they will remain unelectable for many years to come. Shame on them.
Peter Wilson, UK

I could see the point of not sending someone to a regime such as Chile which used to be under this dictator, but Spain, France and Belgium all have deocratic and well established legal systems. It's for them to decide if Pinochet is capable of standing trial and not Jack Straw. This Government which I have always supported is losing its way .
Mike B, UK


It always was a political kidnapping by sour left wing politicians with nothing better to do but engage in posture politics.

P Kimber, England
I have never read such nonsense. The man should never have been arrested. It's no way to repay someone for the help given during our time of need. It always was a political kidnapping by sour left wing politicians with nothing better to do but engage in posture politics. Undoubtedly there were some very unpleasant things occurring during those years in Chile but solutions have been found to resolve such conflict such as in Northern Ireland to the abhorrence of many, and what right do we have to dictate how others resolve there internal problems. I hope General Pinochet can now put these things behind him but with a good deal of regret and live the rest of his life in peace
P Kimber, England

A poor decision from a poor Home Secretary. Jack Straw's misplaced mercy is an affront to justice.
Mark Rolfe, UK

Jack Straw acted perfectly properly and had in the end no choice but to let Pinochet go. Nevertheless by attempting the extradition we can be proud in this country that a precedent has been set. No longer can murderers who call them selves heads of state expect to travel the world and be exempted from justice.
It is sadly typical of the British Conservative Party that they disassociate themselves from this principle by being apologists for a mass murderer.
Stephen Archer, UK

People should pay for their crimes. How we can preach if we have double standards. How can we teach our children to believe that justice is blind?
Mico Chirkovic, UK


I wish the 'New' Labour Party would show some back bone and think independently from the interests of the right and old US allies.

Andrew Hall, USA
Jack Straw was not right. Pinochet would not have shown as much consideration to his past victims. Jack Straw is as bad as Thatcher, Reagan and Hitler in allowing this dictator free. If Pinochet had been a Communist or Muslim that the US wanted Straw would have extradited him to the US immediately. I wish the 'New' Labour Party would show some back bone and think independently from the interests of the right and old US allies.
Andrew Hall, USA

Jack Straw made a right decision. General Pinochet should be free and enjoying his retirement. Anybody who lived long period of time under Communism knows that what he did had to be done.
Jiri Stavovcik, USA/ Czech Republic

A good thing about all this case is that it allowed us to see which politicians consider the murder of political opponents legitimate. Mrs. Thatcher seems to be one of them. Perhaps she should be glad that Mr. Blair is not.
Paulo Alexandre Rocha, Norway


It was really bad form (whatever his background) to arrest a guest.

Paul Wakeford, UK

About time - the guy was certainly not all sweetness and light but he was a "guest" on a diplomatic arrangement - it was really bad form (whatever his background) to arrest a guest.
Paul Wakeford, UK

Now that Mr. Straw liberated Pinochet, I am eager to see whether, as the Chilean government argued, the Chilean justice will judge Pinochet for his alleged crimes. From the very beginning of this case I felt infuriated by the position of my government as it insisted the Garzon's actions constituted an interference in Chile's internal judiciary affairs.
The claim that the Chilean justice is in a position to judge Pinochet is very dubious. In the next few months we will see to what extent the position of the Chilean government was sincere. I am afraid, however, that the answer will disappoint decent Chileans.
Andreas Feldmann, Chile

It seems the only way that Jack Straw can deal with a perceived problem is to rid himself the problem. Pinochet, asylum seekers, trial by jury etc.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

At last, Senator Pinochet can return to his homeland. All Latin Americans, who have endured populist or communist governments, should be happy to see Mr. Pinochet free.
Miguel Guzmán-Betancourt, México


The precedent is set. Let no dictator feel unwelcome in the UK.

Paul Boswell, UK
Having been in contact with friends around the world on this issue, I am so ashamed that my country, after a promising start, now gives way to political pressure and releases Pinochet. But the precedent is set. Let no dictator feel unwelcome in the UK, we will haggle over their future for months, we will arrange luxury accommodation in the meantime, and finally we will make subtle suggestions to the defendant that he should consider being demented to let a pressured and weak home secretary off the hook.
That leaves just the police escort at taxpayer's expense to arrange before he arrives home to a welcoming party of (in Pinochet's case) ultra right wing elements. Shades of Austria?
Paul Boswell, UK

By unleashing this beast, Jack Straw sent a clear message: British justice is something very similar to British ethical foreign policy, that is 180 degrees contradiction between word and deed.
B Behdad, UK


No-one can deny that he saved Chile from Fidel's madness.

David Waffle, UK
Jack Straw was perfectly within his rights to block the extradition of the retired General, Augusto Pinochet. No-one can deny that he saved Chile from Fidel's madness and that Chile now is an extremely wealthy country. I wish him all the best in Chile and hope that he lives out the rest of his life in peace.
David Waffle, UK

The decision to release a criminal like Pinochet is a POLITICAL ONE. If you go to Marks & Spencer and take a few items without paying, one is talking of a prison sentence. Do not bother to tell the magistrate that you were suffering from stress, etc. If you want to avoid justice, torture and kill as many as possible. There is a law for the underclass and another for the rich. Needless to say that petty non-violent offenders should not be in prison.
Dr Peter Bromley, England

It seems to me that Britain had little or no choice in the matter. Pinochet is unfit to stand trial, sure we could have gone through a mockery of a trial where Pinochet would have mumbled and stumbled through the ordeal not fully aware of the proceedings. Would this have served justice?
In my opinion not, it would have served the much baser desire for revenge and retribution, don't confuse revenge and justice. I am no Pinochet supporter but I don't see why Britain should be vilified for doing "the right thing" in this case.
John Brooks, Ex Pat Brit living in the USA


Since it was Spain that wanted to put him to trial why on earth shouldn't it be the same country to judge if he was 'fit' for trial?

Papapanagiotou Dimitris, Greece
There is no doubt that the decision of Pinochet's release has been a political one. For me there still remains a simple question: since it was Spain that wanted to put him to trial why on Earth shouldn't it be the same country to judge if he was 'fit' for trial? I guess all legal systems are equal but some are more equal than others.
Papapanagiotou Dimitris, Greece

When Pinochet was arrested here, it restored some of my pride in Britain, with the feeling that "we" were acting for justice. I wish we had been able to extradite him, or try him in this country, many months ago, but if a trial was ever going to have the effect I and many others wanted, it had to be done properly.
However, it could not be right that we continued to prosecute a man who was no longer fit for trial, and would not be able to understand the questions - what a worrying precedent that would set for our legal system! There was no right decision for Jack Straw to make - this might be less wrong.
Richard, UK

Absolutely wrong to let Pinochet go! The UK goes along with penalising Jörg Haider for things he has not done, yet does not co-operate in punishing Pinochet for the crimes he has committed. Hypocritical in the extreme!
Graham Tully, Denmark


To insist that Straw should have acted in defiance of the medical report is opinionated and inappropriate.

Simon Cameron, UK
The law is not an instrument of cruelty or vengeance but of justice. Pinochet is entitled to a fair trial and that includes the right to attend in person. He was declared medically unfit to do so; therefore that should be the end of it. To insist that Straw should have acted in defiance of the medical report is opinionated and inappropriate.
Simon Cameron, UK

Never mind. A miracle will take place when he arrives back in Chile and he will be restored to health.
J Clark, England

This was a shameful decision, no doubt made for political convenience. I don't recall quibbling about the fitness for trial of the Nazis that have been unearthed from time to time.
Apparently Latino victims are valued less than Europeans. If Pinochet had been a Nazi wanted by Israel, he'd have been shipped right over.
Jim Bray, USA

This is a manifestly unfair decision. It is sad the UK seems caught up between a cowardly Government and a contemptible opposition. We will continue to fight for justice, until justice is done.
Fernando Ruz, UK

For once Straw is right! What happens when Tony Blair is travelling abroad and is arrested for crimes against humanity for bombing the Serbian population? Straw's action at least sets a precedent that might just protect heads of state who feel they have done no wrong but may considered war criminals by others.
Sprevis, UK


The Home Secretary cannot bend the law as he sees fit, however much situations may merit it.

Nick, UK
Whether a friend to this country or not, whether a former head of state or not, whether guilty or not, Pinochet is not above the law. BUT...he is unfit for trial! The law preventing such trials was made for a reason. The Home Secretary cannot bend the law as he sees fit, however much situations may merit it. Such actions would fundamentally undermine our justice system. Jack Straw has made the right decision.
If Pinochet is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, then yes, it is unfortunate he cannot be brought to justice. This is the price of a fair legal system.
Nick, UK

It seems bizarre that we could not put Pinochet under trial as in his "condition" it would contravene the European Union on human rights, when he has never held any regard for the rights of those he had tortured!
Chris, Scotland

Jack Straw is right to set Pinochet free. This man saved the lives of hundreds of British troops during the Falklands war.
Robert Thorpe, Luton, UK


Isn't there a decent politician in this world who will put moral considerations before his own personal interests?

Gerard Tranquille, Switzerland
Outraged and disgusted at this very POLITICAL decision. Isn't there a decent politician in this world who will put moral considerations before his own personal interests and who will not let himself be influenced by his superiors?
Gerard Tranquille, Switzerland

The simple rule must always apply. If someone is unfit mentally to take part in their own trial, then that trial would be a meaningless exercise.
George, UK

I was convinced the British would never have the bottle to proceed with this. The British government reaffirmed what we all know: Felons in high office need not fear of being made accountable for their crimes.
Otto Makris, Greece

Right? Straw is an accomplice! Along with that other great statesman, Henry Kissinger, whose fingerprints are all over this miserable injustice.
Joyce Chumbley, USA


The ones that believe in justice should let us decide what is better for us.

Filippo Bustos L, Chile
Chile has the right to make their own justice. We are a democratic country and if any one has a doubt about it, a few weeks ago we elected a new SOCIALIST president. The ones that believe in justice should let us decide what is better for us.
Now you are very worried about a 84 year old man, with brain damage and physical impediments, but what happens in your own continent...thousands of Chechens are killed in front of your eyes, and what about Bosnia. It's difficult to accept but during all this process the conclusion is that economic and political power is behind the so call "Human rights". Chile is a small country, that is why Big Country, as yours, can do what ever they want with us. We have been an independent country for a few centuries, was hard work to get it, millions of Indians where killed by the Spanish, they don't have the moral to tell us what to do.
Filippo Bustos L, Chile

Straw's contemptuous action is yet another nail in the coffin of Labour's fatuous 'ethical foreign policy'. From East Timor to Kosovo to Chile, Labour has shown its willingness to betray justice and morality.
Felix Morrowe, South Africa

I feel sick.
Maria Vasquez, England

Although it is clear that a man who is unfit to stand trial should not be tried, this is a question which the Spanish courts are best qualified to make, and which it would have been most appropriate for them to have taken.
David, UK


Is it the case that justice treats powerful people in one way and common people in another?

Tim Warman, UK
Excellent! I am delighted that this decision opens a great precedent in the UK. Hopefully from now on, old people and sick people who are facing criminal charges for things like not paying council tax, etc, should not be prosecuted on health and old age grounds. Or is it the case that justice treats powerful people in one way and common people in another?
Tim Warman, UK

No doubt Pinochet will make a miraculous recovery once he sets foot in Chile. Does the name Ernest Saunders not ring any bells?
Mike, UK

I agree with Jan Boerkoel. Whilst I totally condone Pinochet's past actions, and would love for him to face trial and justice, you cannot have a fair trial if the defendant is unable to understand or follow the proceedings, however bad the crimes he/she is accused of.
To overturn this basic premise would make a mockery of the legal system and turn the clock back to Medieval times. I totally sympathise with the relatives of his victims, but given the circumstances, this is the only decision that Jack Straw could have made, much as it pains me to agree with him!
Liz, UK

Maggie Straw is the New Labour friend of dictators and torturers. Why doesn't Straw invite him to tea before he leaves?
Joss Randall, France


Had he made any other decision from the evidence presented to him he would have been as bad as any dictator.

Liam, UK
I am in no way a Pinochet apologist or supporter but from a legal point of view Jack Straw is entirely correct in his decision. Had he made any other decision from the evidence presented to him he would have been as bad as any dictator.
It should also be remembered that Pinochet has not been found guilty of any crimes. If Spain wants to place him on trial let them apply to Chile for extradition.
Liam, UK

If you kill one person you're called a murderer, if you kill a dozen people you're called a serial murderer, if you kill thousands of people you're called, a General, a Senator, a friend of Britain...and on it goes. Isn't this just another case of the political classes looking after each other, back scratching big style. Where's the justice? I've finished with Labour Party now, they have no principles.
Dermot Ryan, UK

It will be amazing how his health recovers and his memory returns once he is back in Chile
Mike Collinson, England

Enough is enough! No matter what Straw did, he would have been wrong. Pinochet was and is a Dictator, people lost their lives and Pinochet has lost his. Read the medical evidence and don't let the emotion of the moment drive you.
Pinochet is locked in his own medical prison cell and will fade from the world very soon and isn't in a position to harm anyone again. Let him go home and die on the soil that is tainted with the blood of his countrymen whom he snuffed and destroyed.
Nick Ashton, USA


How can you justify hunting for the war criminals of Yugoslavia and at the same time let Pinochet go without a trial?

Pal Lederer, Hungary
It's a shame. Mr. Straw's decision highlights once again the twin-morale of the so-called democracies. How can you justify hunting for the war criminals of Yugoslavia and at the same time let Pinochet go without a trial. And: why does Mr. Straw think, that the justice of Spain or Belgium is less just than that of Britain? Pinochet should have been extradited so that Spanish - or European - justice could decide whether he is really too frail to stand a trial.
Pal Lederer, Hungary

To decide whether Mr Straw is right or not is a complex matter of law, but the fact of a bloody dictator being retained for seventeen months was a matter of decency for the world.
Fernando Rodriguez, Spain

Jack Straw is a chicken! This is a typical politician's decision: going for the soft option! This is a historical chance missed of giving reconciliation to all those who suffered under Pinochet!
U Knies, UK

It is the correct decision. Only thing is it has taken lot of time to arrive at.
Harish.M, India

The judicial system of England should still be proud of its effort to establish human rights over the antiquated concept of impunable sovereignty. As for Mr Straw, Mrs Thatcher and other deplorable characters siding with a common criminal, contempt is too much of an effort to waste on those people.
Claes Hansen, Sweden

This is a true outrage! The UK should now sadly be considered a safe haven for criminals, torturers and ex-dictators. I am truly wondering if the objections of France, Spain and Belgium made any difference at all? Isolating Austria for its extreme rightist politics and at the same time allowing one of most ruthless torturers of the second half of this century to go free, could someone explain this New Labour logic to me please? Goes to show yet again that governments only have "interests", and all the rest is secondary. I'm disgusted!
Patrick Govaerts, Belgium


The rule of law might have won today, but we all lost as human beings

Jose Fernandez, Netherlands
Shame on Mr Straw and the British government. The rule of law might have won today, but we all lost as human beings. Maybe in the future the British government should shut up on human rights issues because it's becoming laughable.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

Why should he be released on compassionate grounds. He wasn't very compassionate to thousands of Chileans. He should have been extradited and faced a court of law regardless of how ill he is. Jack Straw again disappoints.
Joanna Hall, England

It proves that Mr Straw is lacking in any backbone, or moral principles. Pinochet ignored basic human rights, and he is being allowed to get away with this. From a legal point of view trying a former head of state is illegal but nobody questions the morality of the Nuremberg trials. If there are political loyalties at stake, we should be supporting our European partners, not the Chilean government.
Mike Kuplas, UK

This is going to be very hard to swallow but if Pinochet is suffering the brain damage that he is said to be, it is true that he could not stand a fair trial. This is a case of a man beating justice on legal technicalities and must be hard to bear for the families of those he tortured and murdered. One thing I am sure about however is that the General will face justice eventually.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland


Once again a war criminal goes free. When will the UK Government have the strength and resolve to stand up to these people and have them prosecuted?

Marcus Williamson, UK
Once again a war criminal goes free. When will the UK Government have the strength and resolve to stand up to these people and have them prosecuted? This evil man will go back to Chile and live the rest of his life in freedom. His victims cannot do the same...
Marcus Williamson, UK

It seems to me that there is a hidden agenda behind the Home Secretary's decision. Whilst that isn't surprising in British politics it is still disappointing. If the subject were not Pinochet but any other Chilean national wanted in Spain then, of course it would be a different matter. I was equally dismayed this morning by the views aired on the BBC of "staunch Pinochet supporter" Norman Lamont.
Paul, UK

If Mr Pinochet is well enough to face the flight to Chile, then he is certainly well enough to fly to Spain - its a much shorter flight.
Mark, Netherlands

This is a disgusting decision. I shall never vote labour again!
Angela, Scotland

I have been a Labour voter for over thirty years, and never thought I would come to despise some of the actions of this government. Like many people, I was euphoric on 2 May 1997, but things have gone downhill ever since. This decision on Pinochet is the last straw (sorry, no pun intended). If mighty Blair is to retain any credibility, he should sack Straw immediately. The least he should do is to overturn this ridiculous decision, and send Pinochet to Spain for trial.
Kevin, Belgium

This is outrageous. We all saw it coming, but it's still a hard pill to swallow. Pinochet and his herd of nationalist and opportunist followers committed crimes against humanity and he should stand on trial, whatever his mental or physical condition may be. Whose side are you on, Mr Straw?
Wim De Weerdt, Belgium

Justice at last!
John, UK


Of course Straw is right. Britain should never have become embroiled in this mess in the first place

Noreena Elwell, Zimbabwe
I hold no brief for Pinochet but of course Straw is right. Britain should never have become embroiled in this mess in the first place. If Spain wants him, Spain should go and get him. Meddling in other people's affairs can be dangerous.
Noreena Elwell, Zimbabwe


We have laws in this country that prevent someone who is clearly too ill to stand trial to be put through the ordeal, and quite rightly so

Neill Wood, UK
On balance I think Jack Straw is probably right. It may be ok for anti-Pinochet protesters to scream and shout injustice, but where would be the justice if Britain allowed the extradition and Spain or another country forced a trail on a sick old man who is very ill indeed? We have laws in this country that prevent someone who is clearly too ill to stand trial to be put through the ordeal, and quite rightly so. Whilst I in no way condone any of the crimes that General Pinochet is said to have committed, and would love to see him stand trial for them, I can fully understand the actions of the British government, and I suspect the Spanish and Belgian governments understand them too.
Neill Wood, UK

If Pinochet is being set free (wrongly) can we at least ensure that he picks up his bill before he leaves the country? I believe he owes us a few million for his safekeeping. If only he was so caring ...
Andrew, UK

Ashamed. Straw should remember the victims of Pinochet and extradite him.
Drew Inglis, Scotland


Unfortunately I am not surprised by our Governments 'cowardice'

Gary Ayckbourn, England
Unfortunately I am not surprised by our Governments 'cowardice'. When will we start to positively reflect the moral stance that we all too often profess to have?
Gary Ayckbourn, England

Straw is wrong. Criminals should be prosecuted
Pieter van Dongen, Netherlands

Jack Straw and Labour have once again showed that they are even more gutless and cowardly than the Tories that I despise. It doesn't matter whether you have been accused of treason or mass genocide, as long as you are old and can cough on demand then this pathetic excuse for a government will let you go about your business.
Andy McIntyre, United Kingdom

No, the extradition process cannot end here: If the UK justice system will not put the general on trial, then decency requires that other countries such as Spain, France and Belgium should be allowed to pick up the process - but I fear that Jack Straw's opposite numbers in those countries are secretly only too relieved that his decision allows the General to flee back to the colonies where he will be out of Europe's sight and mind hereafter and releasing them from a major diplomatic headache.
David, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

Jack Straw's days as Home Secretary are well and truly numbered.
Steve Blunden, UK

It seems that the charged political and diplomatic atmosphere which has surrounded this case has focussed attention away from some very basic principles. Namely that in the defence of a civil society and in support of democracy justice should be seen to be done and a clear message should always be sent out in defence of basic human rights.

The Pinochet fiasco has clearly shown that diplomacy has the potential to muddy the waters in such cases. The question we should now all be asking ourselves is whether it is acceptable that diplomatic licence should supersede the fundamental rights of democracy.
Jennifer Harvey, The Netherlands

Although I regret that it is impossible to bring this mass murderer to justice, I think that it is a just decision. That is if the medical situation is as it is said to be. Than it is the only possible decision to make. Let us not forget however that the victims of this haughty man have not been given the same fair hearing as has been given him.
Jan Boerkoel, The Netherlands

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01 Mar 00 | Americas
Pinochet 'figure of the past'
12 Jan 00 | The Pinochet file
The Pinochet case: Timeline
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