|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point|
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.
Is the home secretary right to release General Pinochet? Should the battle to extradite the general now end?
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?
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I can't believe people are condemning a man that prevented Chile from being the next Cuba.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disgusting, depressing, reprehensible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
P Kimber, England
A poor decision from a poor Home Secretary. Jack Straw's misplaced mercy is an affront to justice.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Simon Cameron, UK
Never mind. A miracle will take place when he arrives back in Chile and he will be restored to health.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Jack Straw is right to set Pinochet
free. This man saved the lives of
hundreds of British troops during the
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.
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.
Right? Straw is an accomplice! Along with that other great statesman, Henry Kissinger, whose fingerprints are all over this miserable injustice.
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.
I feel sick.
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.
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?
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.
Maggie Straw is the New Labour
friend of dictators and torturers.
Why doesn't Straw invite him to
tea before he leaves?
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.
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.
It will be amazing how his health recovers and his memory returns once he is back in Chile
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.
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.
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!
It is the correct decision. Only thing is it has taken lot of time to arrive at.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a disgusting decision.
I shall never vote labour again!
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.
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?
Justice at last!
Noreena Elwell, Zimbabwe
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 ...
Ashamed. Straw should remember the victims of Pinochet and extradite him.
Gary Ayckbourn, England
Straw is wrong. Criminals should be prosecuted
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.
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.
Jack Straw's days as Home Secretary are well and truly numbered.
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.
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.
01 Mar 00 | Americas
Pinochet 'figure of the past'
12 Jan 00 | The Pinochet file
The Pinochet case: Timeline
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to other Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy