The Pinochet Decision

Saul Landau


week, a British magistrate will decide whether to extradite Augusto Pinochet to

Spain or release him. England has detained the former Chilean dictator for

eleven plus months. In that time, his case has brought to world attention the

principals of international human rights law.


Chilean government argues that Spain has no right to try the former tyrant,

1973-1990. But the facts – established by an official Chilean government

commission in 1995 – show that under his watch, more than 2,200 people were

executed, an additional thousand disappeared and hundreds of thousands tortured.

Facts be damned, argues Chile’s Foreign Minister, Chilean sovereignty includes

the exclusive right to try its citizens.


far, British and Spanish courts have dismissed such arguments. Crimes against

humanity, terrorism and genocide – like piracy — belong to international law.

When Pinochet stepped down as President in 1990, Chilean courts dared not charge

him or other high officials with misdeeds carried out under his rule. Indeed, he

forced an amnesty decree down the civilian government’s throat. Ironically,

since Spanish judges charged Pinochet, several Chilean judges, emboldened by his

detention in England, have agreed to hear cases against other high military

officials charged with murder.


arrest has also frightened other human right violators. Thanks to the Pinochet

case, human rights violators no longer travel abroad with security. Indeed,

rumors abound that Henry Kissinger makes discrete inquiries before he travels

abroad, to assure himself that he wont get "Pinocheted" — the term

arose from the British government’s detention of the former criminal en jefe.


officials have remained ambivalent about this process. They would like to see

Serbian officials tried as war criminals because it coincides with Clinton

policy in that area. Yet, they’re concerned that the Pinochet case principals

could apply to former US officials, like Kissinger. It was he, along with

Richard Nixon, who ordered the destabilization of Chile and the illegal bombing

of Cambodia – terrorism and crimes against humanity. Think if the concerned

powers had warned General Wiranta and company that they would face an

international arrest order and have all assets frozen unless they stopped their

cleansing of east Timor. Law might well have had greater leverage, than

threatening to withhold IMF funds or freeze military aid. Instead, the

intervening powers waited until the Indonesian military thugs had done their

damage; they still have not called for Wiranta’s arrest for presiding over East

Timor’s destruction.


Pinochet case affords human rights adherents a new and very legal weapon. If the

British magistrate orders Pinochet extradited to Spain to face trial, the 83

year old ex tyrant will appeal. But no matter, a precedent has already been set.

Kissinger et. al. will not grow old without worrying about paying for their

crimes. thanks to the Pinochet case. Human rights violators no longer travel

with the same sense of security they once had. Indeed, rumors have it that Henry

Kissinger now makes discrete inquiries before he embarks on a voyage abroad, to

assure himself that he will not get "Pinocheted," the new word that

has developed as a result of the legal action undertaken by Tony Blair’s



Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied Knowledge at

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave. Pomona,

CA 91768 tel – 909-869-3115 fax – 909-869-4751


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