December 14, 1998


British Home Secretary Jack Straw's ruling last Wednesday that extradition proceedings can start against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet--who was arrested October 16 in London pursuant to a Spanish extradition warrant alleging murder and torture during his 1973-1990 rule--prompted a flurry of editorial comment overseas. The home secretary's decision was welcomed by a majority of observers in Europe, Asia and Africa. These writers asserted that the causes of justice and human rights have rightly prevailed, and that a strong message of warning has been sent to any "would-be tyrants." Many emphasized that the decision came at a "perfect time," coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Human Rights Declaration. Echoing the sentiment of other media voices, Madrid's liberal El Pais said: "It would be difficult to devise a more fitting commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.... The idea of a global jurisdiction in which to try the worst crimes against humanity is gathering force." Other commentators, however, were less ebullient, asserting that Mr. Straw made a "pragmatic" decision that merely buys some time. They pointed out that while "options remain fully open for continuing extradition proceedings," they could also be "discontinued" at "some point on the long road of appeal and review." There was agreement across the opinion spectrum that General Pinochet's ordeal would not be ending soon, and that the appeals process in Britain could take as long as "a year" or more. Once again, there were numerous calls for bringing cases such as the one involving the former Chilean dictator before the International Criminal Court. Following are major themes:

U.S. CRITICIZED: Focus on the U.S. has remained strong. Opinionmakers weighed in on the U.S.' past and present policies in Latin America--which were unfailingly cast in a negative light. Several pundits took note of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's remarks earlier this month in Atlanta, reporting that she "accepted Washington's collective guilt for having supported Latin American dictators in the past." A few applauded this acknowledgment by the U.S. of its "mistakes." Berlin's left-of-center Die Tageszeitung, for example, maintained that "the fact that it comes now is positive, in that it signals that the leading power of Cold War times has realized that not every means justified the end in the fight against communism." Most editorialists, however, took a more negative view. They suggested that Washington was "insincere," and that its "systematic policy" in Latin America "has not changed, considering Washington's current policy toward Colombia, Peru, Chile and Haiti." Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo concluded that "if not accompanied by a real change in attitudes and actions, [it is] not worth much." NAYSAYERS: Critics--including conservative writers in Chile and a number of other observers in Latin America, Britain, Spain, and several analysts in the developing world--continued to have grave reservations about the arrest of Mr. Pinochet by British authorities. They expressed concern about such issues as: states' sovereignty rights, the future of democracy in Chile and the implications of the Pinochet case for other nations in transition from authoritarian to democratic societies, as well as the "possible arbitrariness" of an emerging international juridical system that holds only a select few--mostly rightist dictators--accountable.

This survey is based on 56 reports from 24 countries, December 5-14.

EDITOR: Diana McCaffrey

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below

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CHILE: "Continue Fighting For Our Sovereignty"

Conservative, popular La Segunda (12/10) ran this editorial: "Domestically, this situation joins other harmful factors.... The crisis within the ruling coalition demonstrates that the... truly grave problem is a matter of principles that has divided the country.... Every sector has to continue fighting for the respect of our sovereignty."

"Augusto Pinochet's Rights"

Conservative, popular La Segunda (12/10) ran an op-ed piece by attorney and historian Gonzalo Vial: "Those who demand Augusto Pinochet's judgment should be coherent with their own juridical and moral position.... Human rights supporters cannot make an exception with Augusto Pinochet. They cannot deny him a fair trial and due process. They would be denying themselves. It's not acceptable that institutions favor only one's friends and not one's enemies. The trial that Spain intends to initiate against Pinochet is.. a paradox, a sham trial.... I am sure that those who, during the military regime, with dedication and courage criticized human rights abuses, will now raise their say that if General Pinochet is extradited to stand trial in Spain, he won't have a fair trial, due process, and therefore his inalienable rights will be violated."

"Act With Maturity"

Popular, independent La Hora opined (12/10): "It's precisely at this moment when a country must show its maturity, that it is able to meet the hardest challenges, and that it won't resort to throwing everything overboard. Clearly, that is not what the country expects."

"Globalization Or Colonialism"

Conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record El Mercurio (12/11) carried an op-ed by attorney Pedro Daza, member of National Renewal (RN) party: "Former President Pinochet's arbitrary arrest in London and the Spanish justice's illegal intentions have opened the discussion about international society's globalization, mainly regarding human rights.... Latin American nations must stay alert to prevent any attempt to introduce a reactionary international order under the pretext of a generous universalization, that could raise European powers' arbitrary domination.... The problem isn't to acknowledge the universality of human rights, which nobody ignores, but rather to prevent Spain from usurping universality and values, and returning to new kinds of colonialism."

"The Need For Prudence"

Government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion held (12/11): "As was foreseeable, Straw's decision have new reasons for controversies in our country.... Imprudent remarks may be the fertilizer for imprudent acts that give the impression abroad of fragility in our institutional order.... Every sector has to act prudently.... This implies understanding, among other things, that freedom of expression--that we all have the right to--doesn't free us from the responsibility of protecting peace and liberty, together the groundwork of our coexistence."

"Chile's Sovereignty, Independence Ignored"

Conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record El Mercurio (12/10) ran this editorial: "British Home Minister Jack Straw has accepted the Spanish courts' request for Senator Augusto Pinochet's extradition.... Minister Straw's decision is the result of a political and not a judicial position in which the Chilean government's arguments were largely ignored....

"By acting with enormous political indifference to the basic juridical principles invoked by our foreign ministry, the British Labor government...meant to ignore Chile's sovereignty and independence.... Despite valuable efforts by the Chilean foreign ministry in London, the finding also reveals how little the government's conduct influenced its British counterpart.... In light of these circumstances, a broad national consensus to re-establish Chile's jurisdictional sovereignty...seems urgent.... Minister Straw's political decision paints a confusing picture."

"The Right And The Armed Forces"

Government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion (12/10) ran an op-ed essay by Party For Democracy (PPD) deputy Victor Barrueto: "The Pinochet affair has revealed that most of the right--which, regretfully, is no longer center-right--has a clear authoritarian orientation. Watching how...several supporters of the general openly call for the Armed Forces' intervention (which is called sedition) shouldn't lead us to new mistakes.... The graveness of this situation is the call for non-governability.... Other countries' respect for Chile depends, primarily, on ourselves, on our clearness about our institutions' mission, especially the Armed Forces. We do not deserve to request our sovereignty be acknowledged if we don't respect our democratic self-determination."

ARGENTINA: "Straw's Correct Decision"

An editorial in liberal English-language Buenos Aires Herald read (12/11): "For all the fears about instability in young democracies, British Home Secretary Jack Straw's extradition decision remains correct for both pragmatic and ethical reasons. Firm as the decision was, it was also the only way of playing for time--if he had blocked extradition, Pinochet would have been whisked back to Chile at once while this way the options remain fully open for continuing extradition proceedings or discontinuing them at some point on the long road of appeal and review. The ethical point is much simpler. Pinochet has committed heinous crimes which Chile is unwilling to try for political reasons--under these circumstances it is better that they be tried by Judge Garzon, Zorro or Donald Duck, than not tried at all."

"Washington Attempts To Keep Neutral"

Jorge Elias, Washington-based correspondent for daily-of-record La Nacion, commented (12/11): "Pinochet's arrest is for the United States like the return of a soldier from Vietnam whose wife remarried, under the belief that he died.... Bill Clinton's administration--surprised and divided by the return of the 'alive dead'--did not give anything but signs of rigorous formality, as if it did not know him. From that position, slightly altered by the promise of the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright of declassifying secret documents giving an account of the U.S. support to the coup of 1973, the United States has not been able to move so far. Not even after learning Tony Blair's decision of allowing that Pinochet be extradited to Spain. In Paris, Albright did not abandon her neutral style...when she said that the affair is only within the competence of the involved governments.... In fact, at first the United States--in tune with the claims from the Chilean government--wanted Pinochet to be allowed to return to Santiago. Then, Albright admitted that awful mistakes had been made in the past, above all during the Nixon administration. Now, after having known that Great Britain gave a green light to Garzon's request, the United States cannot stop wavering, in which sooner or later it will remain clear that the U.S.-supported the regime which left over 3,000 victims.... The question is who handles global justice in a global world."

"50 Years Is Something"

An editorial in the liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald read (12/10): "What better way to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than British Home Secretary Jack Straw's green light for Spanish extradition proceedings against...Augusto Pinochet?"

BRAZIL: "Pinochet And Sovereignty"

Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo commented (12/12): "Pinochet's imprisonment occurs at a moment of absence or weakness of the international juridical order capable of preventing possible arbitrariness in this type of unilateral action. Today a widely repudiated dictatorship is under examination; tomorrow, the expedient could be used in less dubious cases. For this, the use of power will be enough, which sometimes prevails in relations between countries and in vague allegations of crimes against humanity. The greatest merit of the 'affaire' is to initiate a discussion about the international juridical order. With it, the International Criminal Court created in Rome gains an opportunity and due attention."

"Humiliating Decision For Chile"

The lead editorial in center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo said (12/11): "Pinochet's extradition request by a Spanish judge...humiliates the Chile government, harms Chile's national pride, and threatens its continuing transition to democracy. This break in the principle of the territoriality will not punish or discourage dictatorships and dictators. On the contrary, it upsets the process of national reconciliation that the Chileans have undertaken with prudence and wisdom. A Spanish judge, a British court and a minister are leading the process of the Chilean reconciliation toward a disaster just to test the efficiency of the principle of `universal jurisdiction'--and the application this principle is doubtful--as the freedom of other tyrants who have their hands even more bloody than general Pinochet shows. What has been created--under the pretext of the universality of human rights--is the creation of a new arena resulting in ideological clashes and the fight for political power."

"An Insincere Apology"

Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo's op-ed page (12/10) ran this essay by by University of Sao Paulo's Sociology Professor Emir Sade: "[This is] the season of unpunished confessions, where governments appear to recognize their responsibility to atrocities. It is in this context that Secstate Madeleine Albright has confessed that the United States made several 'mistakes' in the past by supporting dictatorships in Latan America.... However, she has been modest, given the fact that such 'mistakes' were spread from Uruguay to Mexico, and through other countries throughout most of Latin America and Central American, including among others, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. It was not a 'mistake' but rather a systematic policy carried out over the past 50 years. A policy that seems not to have changed, considering Washington's current policy toward Colombia, Peru, Chile and Haiti.... U.S. action has always hampered all means of [human rights] monitoring approved by treaties and by the Hague International Court.... Why does the United States take this position? Is U.S. foreign policy committed to genocide against mankind? Should a nation that behaves this way have the right to judge other nations?... If regret and forgiveness are not accompanied by a real change in attitudes and actions they are not worth much."

"Pinochet And Fidel"

Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo's op-ed page held (12/9): "The most recent support of Pinochet defenders is that he is no worse than Fidel Castro--but this trump card can easily be converted into a trap.

"Comparing human rights violations, the record of the Cuban seems to be quantitatively worse than the Chilean, although in terms of quality they are basically equivalent. On the one hand the Cuban is certainly worse, since he is still in power. One the other, Fidel did not overthrow an elected government (no matter how bad it was). Fidel is a despot who should be deposed and judged, in Cuba or abroad.... The fact that he is not being tried is an example of one of the old liberal viewpoints that a black or poor defendant could only be fairly judged after all white and rich delinquents had been jailed. In sum, if the caliber of Pinochet's lawyers is the same of his apologists, we can expect a condemnation soon. As this is not happening, it is wise to keep in mind that for those who wish to see Fidel tried before a judge for his crimes might want to see Pinochet in the same situation. And vice-versa."

CANADA: "Dead Angles"

Guy Taillefer stressed in liberal, French language Le Devoir (12/7): "In the Pinochet affair, the United States would like to escape their demons, but it seems less and less likely that it will be able to do so. Within the extradition petition of the Chilean general, it is the trial of the American foreign policy that is conducted. Discomfort in Washington, progress for humanity.... Nevertheless, the words of the secretary of state would certainly be more credible if the Clinton administration had not remained silent for the past month and a half on the Pinochet affair, which amounts to a strong support for impunity.... Is the Clinton administration trying to use the coinciding of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to build muscles to gain momentum on the subject of human rights, or is it looking to soften the critics that will inevitably point to the United States if Pinochet is subject to a trial in Spain?"


BRITAIN: "Exiled In Surrey"

The independent weekly Economist observed (12/11): "Home Secretary Jack Straw had insisted all along that his role in the case of General Pinochet was 'quasi-judicial.' And that is, indeed, how Mr. Straw apparently behaved. A monumental legal battle is now expected.... If all appeals fail and the courts rule that General Pinochet must be extradited, the case returns to the desk of the Home Secretary, who makes the final decision on whether to send him to Spain or to release him.... So was this a political or a judicial decision? As Mr. Straw makes clear in his statement, it was a bit of both. 'Quasi-judicial' looks like the proper adjective after all."

"Justice For Pinochet"

The liberal Guardian had this editorial (12/10): "Jack Straw has taken the only decision on the Pinochet case which combines justice with moral vision."

"Take Pride In Straw's Courage"

The left-wing tabloid Mirror said (12/10): "Mr. Straw has done the correct thing morally and legally. This is also a fine way to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

"Politics, Not Justice"

The conservative Daily Telegraph had this lead editorial (12/10): "Jack Straw has pitched this country into a long, messy and costly disaster. Britain will be the loser by it and so, very likely, will Chile."

"What About Chile?"

The conservative Daily Mail had just one editorial (12/10): "If the duly elected government of Chile does not want to take the lid off its past and stage a show trial of Pinochet, why should Britain's home secretary give a maverick Spanish judge the green light to do so? While his ruling may be understandable, it is as disappointing as it is to be deplored."

"Timely Decision In Favor Of Justice And Human Rights"

The centrist Independent said in its lead editorial (12/10): "A brave move.... Human rights are now part of everyone's agenda."

"Straw And The Law"

The conservative Times had this lead editorial (12/9): "Today Jack Straw is expected to announce whether to halt extradition proceedings against General Pinochet or give the courts his authority to proceed. But this decision will be the most politically charged of his career. Whatever he does, he must gloomily expect to be pilloried. The general's ghost will haunt him for months, if not years, to come. If he lets the case go ahead, it will be an interminable process. Should judgment then go against the former Chilean dictator, when all legal appeals have been exhausted it must again fall to Mr. Straw to decide whether to sign the extradition order to Spain. If he calls a halt now, he must expect uproar in his party--and a prosecution lawyers' race to the courts to prevent the general's departure to Chile until appeals have been heard....

"What the home secretary cannot do is to take political considerations overtly into account, without risking a humiliating reversal in the courts. Yet this case's political dimensions have been obvious ever since the first arrest warrant was issued on October 16. They were certainly obvious to the five Law Lords who were called upon last month to decide whether General Pinochet's alleged crimes were so appalling as to deprive him of the immunity accorded to former heads of state."

SPAIN: "Lessons Of The Pinochet Case"

Barcelona's centrist La Vanguardia judged (12/11): "Whatever the outcome of the legal battle [still in its opening stages], what has taken place to date demonstrates, despite the initial skepticism surrounding this case, that dictators are no longer immune."

"Pinochet And More Pinochet"

Jose Maria Carrascal commented in conservative ABC (12/11): "A few Spanish and British judges and politicians presume to decide Chile's future. This is cheap paternalism and colonialism disguised as humanitarianism. If anyone is to judge Pinochet, it should be the Chileans who have recovered their sovereignty, an attribute which is currently being cavalierly ignored in the United Kingdom and Spain. But if he is to be tried outside his own country, it should be by an international tribunal with all the guaranties a defendant deserves."

"Getting Closer"

Liberal El Pais commented (12/10): "It would be difficult to devise a more fitting commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.... The idea of a global jurisdiction in which to try the worst crimes against humanity is gathering force."

"An International Criminal Court"

New conservative La Razon opined (12/10): "Given the difficulties that this trial will cause Spain and the deterioration in Spain's relations with Chile that will ensue, the voices experts can rightly be heard urging the creation of an ICC."

GERMANY: "Globalization"

Business newspaper Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf commented (12/11): "Globalization is all of a sudden getting a new face. In the area of trade and business, there is discussion of rules that apply world-wide.... The world is getting smaller. But politics, too, is no longer the prerogative of national governments alone, especially in the case of human rights abuses. Unfortunately, it is easier to arrest a former head of state from Chile than those responsible for the terror of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Or is it possible that the Serb Milosevic would again travel to the United States to negotiate a peace treaty?"

"Victory Of Spanish Justice"

Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau carried this commentary (12/10): "Of course, it would be more convincing if the Chileans themselves were able to settle accounts with the former tyrant. But in Madrid, too, Pinochet will find himself face to face with his victims.... At least one of the dictators on this earth will in his old age stand trial for human rights crimes."

"U.S.A., Self-Critical"

Right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin told its readers in an editorial (12/5): "The U.S. secretary of state has now broken an old taboo...and admitted...that the United States made 'serious mistakes' in its policy toward Latin America. And maybe we shall soon be seeing the declassification of secret files on Pinochet's military regime. If it comes to that, a bloody reality would be revealed, and it would become evident that the home of modern democracy occasionally gave dictators more than just a helping hand during the Cold War. It would be a sign of greatness if the United States officially decided to throw light on this dark chapter."

"Belatedly, Albright Admits Mistakes In Latin America Policy"

Under the above headline, left-of-center Die Tageszeitung of Berlin front-paged this commentary (12/5): "Belated acknowledgment indeed. But still, for the first time a top U.S. official has admitted that the United States has a problem in its relations with Latin America, and that it has a past it has to come to terms with. It's about time. But the fact that it comes now is positive, in that it signals that the leading power of Cold War times has realized that not every means justified the end in the fight against communism."

ITALY: "The Reverse Of The Medal"

A commentary by Franco Venturini on the front page of centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera said (12/10): "Initial reaction (to Straw's decision on Pinochet)...leads to emotional exultation.... Yet the medal of good feelings has a reverse, and a serious one. Chile is a young democracy, engaged in a delicate transition towards full normality. And this Chile is asking that Pinochet return home. Doesn't the right of Chileans to judge their past and future also exist, in addition to the growing concept of 'universal crime'?... And if we are talking about a globalization of justice, why spare Jean-Claude Duvalier?... Why continue to receive Kabila with all honors? And shouldn't Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, and perhaps Fidel Castro, also be prosecuted?... We are thirsty for justice, but justice without consistency is a close relative of hypocrisy and brings along the threat of new tyrants and new victims.

"There is only one way out: the ICC for crimes against humanity that was conceived in Rome amid so many difficulties."

RUSSIA: "Charged With Murder"

Vadim Markushin mused in centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda (12/11): "Those who have arrested and filed...suits against the former dictator do not care about the Chilean experience. They do not charge Pinochet with usurping power or staging a coup or using draconian economic methods. They charge him with the concrete murder of people, victims of mass-scale persecution for political reasons."

AUSTRIA: "Insecurities And Cases Of Doubt"

Liberal Der Standard noted (12/5-6): "The U.S. secretary of state conceded that the United States had committed 'terrible mistakes' in its former Latin American policy, and that the support of Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet was one of these mistakes.... Not only the American change of course is remarkable, but also the accompanying circumstances, under which it took place. They indicate an enormous insecurity within the U.S. government about how to deal with the Pinochet case on principle.... Nobody can pretend that the air strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan...were an adequate and meaningful reaction.... A comparable helplessness seems to dominate in the handling of Iran's former dictator Saddam Hussein.... Pinochet, terrorism, Saddam Hussein: All these inconsistencies and insecurities match the picture of a fundamentally changed world, which no longer has clear enemy stereotypes.... In spite of all the ambition it has demonstrated in the Middle East, in Kosovo, or in its efforts of keeping the club of nuclear powers small, the political action of the United States seems to be limited to a much greater extent than generally assumed: The 'world policeman' fiction rather than reality."

BELGIUM: "It Is Washington Which Should Be Furious"

Philippe Le Corre commented in independent Le Soir (12/10): "The U.S. government does not eagerly look forward to the Madrid trial, and it is hard to see how the CIA's role during the Pinochet dictatorship could be overlooked in the procedure."

"Sorry, Latinos"

Foreign editor Axel Buyse remarked in independent Catholic De Standaard (12/5): "When it comes to a [certain] point, every nation directs its foreign policy on the basis of its 'interests' of a commercial or political-strategic nature. However, all equilibrium between its own interests and the interest of its 'partners' was lacking in the manner in which the United States, until recently, used its full weight in weak Latin American countries. In the name of 'democracy'--and, above all, to maintain U.S. control--the United States, time and again, interrupted the course of normal political developments. That made Washington a direct or indirect accomplice to gross violations of human rights. With a good vs. bad view of world events influenced by the Cold War, U.S. diplomats detected a worldwide Marxist-Leninist strategy behind each form of social or political protest.... It sanctified the theory of 'national security'--which gave military rulers from Chile to Guatemala the perfect alibi to drown in blood every form of dissident thinking. Remnants of that narrow vision of Latin America are still present in the counterproductive manner in which Washington, under pressure from the Congress, continues to handle a hopelessly isolated small country like Cuba. Ironically, U.S. policy helps keep alive the Castro regime, which is desperately gasping for breath."

DENMARK : "Actual Example Of Implementation"

Center-left Aktuelt commented (12/11): "The fact that the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has coincided with (an actual example) of its implementation, is historic in the extreme.... It sends out the important message that human rights should be protected in real terms."

POLAND: "Riding The Tiger"

Aleksander Kropiwnicki wrote in right-of-center Zycie (12/10): "The decision to detain Pinochet was political. The independence of the judiciary branch--a cornerstone of democracy in this supposedly most law-abiding country in Europe and possibly in the world--suffered a heavy blow."


JAPAN: "Britain's Agonizing Choice--Justice Serves National Interest"

Liberal Asahi's European General Bureau Chief Momose commented (12/11): "The controversy over the arrest of Pinochet has reminded us that human rights and moralism are becoming more important than national sovereignty.... What we are witnessing is the rise of the idea that pursuing justice based on ethics serves dignity and the interests of a nation.... At the same time, we also have to recognize that Pinochet's possible extradition and his trial in Spain, by infuriating Pinochet's supporters, might jeopardize Chilean democracy."

CHINA: "Delicate Situation"

Zhang Ming said in the intellectually-oriented Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao,12/12): "Pinochet's case will likely lead to many diplomatic crises. Reports of U.S. backstage interference and intentions to prevent extradition to Spain have surfaced. The United States worries that a Pinochet trial may expose the whole truth: that the United States once supported Pinochet (a loyal ally in South America) to gain power through the coup, and continued to provide aid to him later."

HONG KONG: "Albright's Confession Proof Of U.S. Mistake"

The independent Hong Kong Standard's editorial judged (12/5): "It is not often that we hear high-ranking Washington officials pleading mea culpa. But U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did just that during an address to university students in Atlanta when she accepted Washington's collective guilt for having supported Latin American dictators in the past.... At least we have had one highly placed official admit to terrible policy mistakes. Unfortunately such mistakes have been made at enormous cost both in terms of lives and the nurturing of democracy. It is difficult for the United States to atone verbally for these mistakes without sounding hypocritical. If Washington is to be taken seriously, it must at least release quickly all documents and reports relating to the times so that even at this late stage, dictators like Augusto Pinochet who have committed crimes against humanity might be brought to justice, somewhere, somehow."

PHILIPPINES: "Perfect Timing"

Frankie Llaguno wrote in his column in the independent Manila Times (12/11): "It was perfect timing to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. British Home Secretary Jack Straw approved Wednesday the extradition case against Augusto Pinochet....

"Judge Garzon and his British counterparts proceeded under well-established international law making crimes against humanity offenses of universal jurisdiction whose authors can be tried in any competent court.... Many dictators commit atrocities because they assume they will get away with it--that they will be able to bargain for immunity from prosecution as a condition of stepping down. A policy of respecting such amnesties is seen as reinforcing this deadly calculation. Impunity breeds more dictators. The arrest of Pinochet, regardless of whether it survives legal challenge, signals would-be tyrants that from now on it will be harder to escape punishment....

"Strangely, while the rest of the democratic world was cheering on the work of Garzon and the British authorities, the United States, a leading advocate of human rights, was found wanting in the Pinochet affair.... The U.S. government, while agreeing to cooperate in seeking declassification of documents related to Pinochet's rule, has been reluctant to push for his trial and oppose any system that could be applied to American actions abroad.... On the 50th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stars shine in the human rights firmament. Sadly, there are also human rights villains and goats from the most unexpected places."

SINGAPORE: "Straw In An Ill Wind"

In its editorial, the pro-government Straits Times said (12/14): "Reasonable people with no axe to grind will have little difficulty in endorsing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's comment that Home Secretary Jack Straw has made a 'grave mistake' by playing to the human rights gallery over the former Chilean dictator, Mr. Augusto Pinochet. Perhaps it is understandable that Mr. Straw should want to burnish new Labor's liberal humanistic image, especially to coincide with the 50th birthday celebration of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. But he should have paused to consider the practical implications, especially if other governments are also foolish enough to play into the hands of those who seem bent on sacrificing law and order at the altar of universal jurisdiction and ad hoc justice. Concern goes far beyond the legalities of the case.... One irony of all this is that Mr. Pinochet would not have been in this predicament today if he had not held a free election and surrendered power to a democratic government in 1990, something which he might well rue and which other dictators will now be chary of doing. Another is that while the United States--which supported his 1973 overthrow of the socialist Salvador Allende regime--is taking no public position, it is releasing quantities of secret documents to help the Spaniards and other prosecutors.

"The United States must also be blamed for opposing the plan for an International Criminal Court so strongly that it had to be watered down to the point of irrelevance. An effective court could have taken over all such cases. In the absence of such a judicial forum, justice will be a hit-or-miss affair, with freelance do-gooders taking pot-shots every so often at those whom they see as the oppressors of mankind. It is this danger that Mr. Tony Blair's government should have anticipated amd avoided, irrespective of populist sentiment."

THAILAND: "Cause For Cheer If Dictators Lose Sleep"

The lead editorial of the independent, English language Nation commented (12/10): "No doubt, both the Pinochet decision and the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) signify the coming of a new world order where the rule of law will hopefully replace the law of the jungle. A new global judicial system is indeed in the making.... Not only do dictators have reasons to fear; even leaders of democracies will not be immune to prosecution. Take, for example, the invasion of Panama ordered by U.S. President George Bush, where in the bid to kidnap strongman Manuel Noreiga, some 3,000 people were killed, or the massacre of thousands of withdrawing Iraqis along the 100-km stretch of the 'Highway of Death' from Kuwait to Basra during the Gulf War."


INDIA: "Justice Is A Problematic Notion Vis-A-Vis International Diplomacy"

The centrist Telegraph's Sunday editor Vir Sanghvi observed (12/13): "The left argues, correctly, that the British legal system is smart enough to tell the difference between a mass murderer and a dictator who was merely brutal. But what do you do with serving heads of state? Next year, Britain will host the visiting Chinese leadership. Should they be arrested at Heathrow? China's human rights record is appalling enough to justify that. Or should this morality be applied only to retired dictators from not very important countries? If so, then how does it make sense? It is the serving dictators who do the most damage. The retired generals have already hung up their boots and put away their whips.... Judging by the British Home Secretary's statement...Britain is going to play the EU card. It is going to argue that all of the above issues should be debated by the Spaniards since it is Spain--ot Britain--that wants to try Pinochet. Britain will simply do its duty under the EU law, subject of course, to Pinochet's new appeals. (These could take a year.) From the British perspective, this is a pragmatic position. But it is also one that ducks the issue. As the world grows smaller, we must accept that morality does not stop at national frontiers. But who is to punish those who transgress moral codes and how? As of now, despite the Pinochet affair, we have no answer.... People of my generation who grew up hating the dictators, the fingernail pullers, the CIA-sponsored murderers and the global villains must feel sad that the concern of the seventies and the campaigns of the eighties have left us in a situation where we know that the guilty must be punished but aren't sure how."

"Belated Wisdom?"

K. Subrahmanyam wrote in the "Global Watch" of the pro-economic-reform Economic Times (12/9): "The Chilean government fears that (Pinochet's) trial outside Chile will create tension between his it has sought for Pinochet to be sent back to Chile with the proposal that he be put on trial there. Very few people inside and outside Chile believe that this will happen.... It would appear the U.S. government would prefer Pinochet to be brought back to Chile since the chances of (a) trial there are not very high. The United States may be willing to provide information on Pinochet's human rights violations while in office. One now wonders whether the United States would release information on the Pinochet-CIA links which triggered the coup against President Allende. Many in the world rejoiced at the ruling of the British Lords that Pinochet is extraditable. What would happen if a Vietnamese court were to send a warrant for the extradition of a top U.S. policymaker who authorized...extensive use of Agent Orange or the genocidal bombing of Vietnamese countryside? While General Pinochet deserves to be tried and punished for his crimes, it must be borne in mind that international law is not universally enforceable. The Nazis were punished for incinerating the Jews, but nobody was punished for incinerating the Japanese en masse in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During the recent establishment of international criminal court by UN, the use of nuclear weapons was not accepted as a crime against humanity--only killings in smaller numbers by individuals and groups using conventional arms. The rule of fair and square international law and its universal application are still a long way off."

SRI LANKA: "Sauce For Saddam But Not For Pinochet"

Under the above headline, Lucien Rajakarunanayake opined in the independent, English-language Sunday Leader (12/6): "The United States was obviously more than pleased when Pinochet led the coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, which had a socialist agenda. What Albright now asserts in the talk of reconciliation and letting the Chilean people do what they wish, is to show continued support for a man who appears to have been one of the most ruthless violators of human rights.

"Such fellowship with those who carry out a reign of terror does not speak well for the United States, especially with its preaching of democracy and respect for the human rights in other countries."


NIGERIA: "America's Double Standards Policy"

Lagos independent National Concord said (12/11): "It is most disturbing...that in spite of the dominant universal acclaim the historic judgement received, the United States which styles itself as a defender of democracy and democratic values, would request the British authorities to let Pinochet and his blood-stained hands to go home. Such a request is a damning insult on the intelligence of well-meaning peoples all over the world. This is even more so given the fact that Pinochet was and still is a creation of the United States whose conflicting roles in the affairs of the Third World are difficult to comprehend.... The call for the release of Pinochet has robbed America of the moral fiber to champion the cause of democracy."

TOGO: "The Hypocrisy Of The West"

La Matineee, a new paper founded last week and ostensibly independent, but said to be tied to the government, ran an article by Eric Placca (12/11): "The greatest crime of the Chilean dictator is having included Europeans with Indians in his repression. If he had [killed] only Indians, the West would have rolled out the red carpet for him."

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