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On Pinochet and his secret police crimes (by Philip O'Brien)

Date sent:        Sat, 31 Oct 98 13:17:47 UT
To:               "Robinson Rojas" <
From: on behalf of Rory Miller
Sent: 	21 October 1998 18:02
To: 	Latam-info
Subject: 	Pinochet

From: "P.J. O'Brien" <>
Subject: Pinochet

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 functioning democracy.

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.

Philip O'Brien