Bringing Pinochet to justice

Augusto Pinochet, retired army commander and former president-dictator of Chile, received an ironic and unwelcome birthday present this year while recuperating from back surgery in a London hospital. On November 25, the day Pinochet turned 83, the judicial committee of Britain's House of Lords ruled that he does not have absolute immunity from arrest for actions carried out while he was a head of state.

The decision was hailed by human rights activists, who saw it as a landmark assertion that systematic murder, torture and kidnapping are not legitimate functions of a head of state and do not merit the granting of immunity. The British court action was in response to an extradition request issued by Spanish "superjudge" Baltasar Garzón, who charged the general (and now "senator for life") with just such crimes, including the murder of a number of Spanish nationals in Chile during his 17-year reign, 1973-1990.

 

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