Saturday, 18 October 2008

10 Years after Pinochet Arrest - Another View

There's an article about the anniversary of Pinochet's arrest in Argentina's Pagina/12, which I thought was worth translating because of its markedly reserved tone, in contrast with the celebratory reminiscences I've seen elsewhere. Yes, it acknowledges progress, but it is very much focused on all the work left to do.
The Spanish is here: A diez años de la captura de Pinochet
International justice is weakened, says Amnesty
10 Years after Pinochet's Capture

For the international human rights organisation, the world should consolidate and systematize the legal, moral and political principles which legimitized the 503 days of arrest for the former Chilean dictator in London.

On the tenth anniversary of the detention of Augusto Pinochet in London, Amnesty International warned of the weakness of international Justice. "There's still a lot to do to fulfill the hope for justice which Pinochet's arrest generated. Thousands of human rights abusers are still at large, avoiding justice in safe places all over the world," said the organisation's General Secretary, Irene Khan. For the NGO, the international community, and judges and lawyers all over the world have an obligation to consolidate and systematize the legal, moral and political principles which legitimised the 503 days of arrest of the once all-powerful Chilean dictator in the British capital.

"This is the moment to remember the extraordinary achievement of the families of Pinochet's victims," concluded Khan. On 16 October 1998, the judge from the Spanish Audiencia Nacional, Baltasar Garzón, brought together thousands of piece of evidence on the torture, disappearances and executions which Chilean human rights lawyers had gathered and, for the first time in history, invoked universal jurisdiction. "He recognised that heads of State are not above the law and may be detained and judged internationally for crimes committed in their own country," Amnesty International explained in a press release yesterday.

Since then, many judges have followed Garzón's example. A Belgian court issued an international arrest warrant in 2005 for the ex-President of Chad, Hissene Habré, who was detained in Senegal. In the end, the African country did not extradite him to Europe, but modified its own laws to be able to judge him in his country. This year, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague demanded the detention of the de facto President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Nevertheless, according to Amnesty International, progress is too slow and difficult. For example, the organisation recalls, various government are currently demanding that the General Assembly of the UN condemn the "abuses" of universal jurisdiction committed by The Hague in the trials against the Sudanese authorities. "The detention of Pinochet set a precedent that the international community has the obligation to consolidate, detaining and judging or extraditing those who are alleged to have committed crimes classified under international law".

In Spain and Chile, by contrast, the day when two English police officers arrested the Chilean dictator in his room in The London Clinic on the orders of judge Garzón has been remembered with much optimism. "After the capture of the dictator, crimes against humanity would not go unpunished in the rest of the world,", Spanish lawyer Joan Garcés remembered happily. As an old friend of overthrown Socialist President Salvador Allende, Garcés was the lawyer who presented the accusations of the victim's families before Garzón.

For Chilean lawyer Roberto Garretón, who ten years ago compiled the accusation against Pinochet which was read in the British Parliament, the historical arrest of the dictator also inspired national systems of justice to judge their own criminals. Trials of human rights abusers multiplied in the following years in Chile, in Argentina the laws of 'full stop' and 'due obedience' [the amnesty laws brought in by Menem preventing the prosecution of military criminals] were annulled in 2005, and this year ex-President Alberto Fujimori was detained in Chile at the request of the Peruvian justice system.

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