On Pinochet and his secret police crimes (by Philip O'Brien)
Date sent: Sat, 31 Oct 98 13:17:47 UT
To: "Robinson Rojas" <email@example.com
From: firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of Rory Miller
Sent: 21 October 1998 18:02
From: "P.J. O'Brien" <email@example.com>
M. Aliaga is quite right - if the arrest of Pinochet in London led to a
military take-over in Chile then such an arrest would be a mistake. However in spite of
such threats from the Chilean right and Tory M.Ps this is a most unlikely scenario. What
is happening in London is not threatening Chile's delicately negotiated transition. It
will not polarise Chilean sociaety because Chile is already polarised on the issue --all
that has happened is that the victims of Pinochet's terror were effectively silenced.
Their voice will be heard a little more now. If a British court decided Pinochet does not
have diplomatic immunity then the only embarrassment for the Chilean Govt is their failure
to give Pinochet a roving ambassadorship or whatever.
The issue is a clear one -is General Pinochet above international law
or is he not? I suspect that such accusations as genocide or that he murdered thousands of
Chileans will not stand up in another country's law court unless he can be tried in a War
Crimes Tribunal which is probably not legally possible. But it is surely the right of
Spain to try somebody for the murder of Spanish citizens in another country provided of
course they can arrest that person. And it is surely judicially correct for the UK to
follow up a request from a Spanish judge to see if there is a case for extradiction. We
know from Operation Condor that the military dictators of the southern code exchanged
their nationals what was from their point of view dangerous terrorists to each other.
Proving that general Pinochet was responsible for the torture and
murder of Spanish or English or American citizens may prove difficult. There is certainly
no documentary evidence to support such accusations. However we do know that General
Pinochet created the DINA as personally responsible to himself. In an interview I had with
General Leigh he said DINA reports never went to the Junta. The only person who saw then
was Pinochet who spoke with the head of the DINA on a daily basis. Wheter that is
sufficient to make him the intellectual author of the deaths of the Spaniards or
whomsoever is not clear.
I do not think Chile needs to panic over what is happening. Of course
passions will be strong, but Chilean democracy should now be sufficiently robust to cope
with demonstrations and even egg throwing. Much more serious is the impact of a major
world depression if we have one, and the need for Chile to think more clearly about
certain aspects of its so-called economic miracle and indeed about how to create a better
I expect Pinochet to be released, but making him feel uncomfortable for
a while is a small step towards justice which for whatever reasons Chilean society itself
felt it was unable to do.