The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Pinochet caravan sets off again

The guy is a one-man WPA for lawyers.

When the fanatic Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón punk'd the British government with his extradition request for the old soldier some years ago, he occupied the House of Lords (the UK's top court) no fewer that three times [1], and had Home Secretary Jack Straw praying the guy would put in an Oscar-winning performance with the quacks to enable him finally to sling his dago ass out of the country.

He still has not had the grace to kick the bucket. And, so long as he lingers, the anachronists and stirrers will try to get him arraigned.

The latest decision, of the Corte de Apelaciones de Santiago, is to lift his immunity as ex-President in relation to charges concerning his involvement with Operation Condor.

Apparently, the decision came as a surprise - an El Mercurio piece says that the groups bringing the case were merely going through the motions.

The Chilean judiciary have been this way before, leading to a decision from the Supreme Court in 2000 that Pinochet was not fit to stand trial [2].

The latest decision seems to be down to a change in the makeup of the Corte de Apelaciones since 2000, and a TV interview Pinochet gave to a Miami TV station last November - he was just a tad too alert, apparently!

I'll keep half an eye on this: I can't see Pinochet ever facing trial, nor that Ricardo Lagos is really terribly keen on seeing him in the dock. Seeing him wriggle out of it might be amusing. (Next stop, the Supreme Court, I fancy.)

[The case underlines yet again the thundering irony: grandstander Garzón goes after American dictators and their henchmen.

Yet, of prosecutions of the misdeeds of the regime of General Franco, we hear precisely nada. For decades in the 19th and early 20th century, Spanish politics were a musical comedy, just like those of their American cousins in more recent decades; in 1936, the joking stopped, and, it seems, no one - not even the flamboyant Garzón - wants the country to gesture towards jokedom again.

I'm not even sure whether the acts of the Franco regime are legally amnestied. I suspect it wouldn't have been necessary.]

  1. The sad Tale from [Lord] Hoffman for another time: that a brilliant legal mind could not spot a potential conflict of interest apparent to a ten year old is not the least mystery in the Pinochet saga.

  2. A University of Alicante site seems to be the place to start for documentation on the earlier litigation. It hasn't been updated since 2000.


Further particulars on the Spanish question:

There is indeed an amnesty for crimes committed under the Franco regime - two amnesties, in fact. This Nizkor page has links to a lot of useful-looking material.

It put out a paper in April 2004 (in Spanish and English) which proposes, on the basis of various human rights treaties discussed at some length, to tear up the post-Franco settlement and start digging up bodies, literally and metaphorically.

Good luck with that!

Even the new Spanish prime minister, the PSOE's [1] José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (to name but one!), is - my hunch - unlikely to go the way of Argentina's President Néstor Kirchner, and leap to let the sunlight in, like the eminently childish Pip in the famous curtain-ripping scene [2] from Great Expectations.

  1. Partido Socialista Obrero Español - the name for historic reasons, no doubt. The French socialists were known, between the split with the Communists in or about 1920 and the early 1970s as the SFIO - the Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière.

  2. John Mills rips the dead Miss Havisham's curtains in David Lean's film, at least. I decline to pretend I've actually read the Dickens Doorstep.


There may be some meat on the report of a 2003 seminar Democratic Development and Reckoning with the Past: The Case of Spain in Comparative Context. And a 2000 paper Models of Transitional Justice - A Comparative Analysis looks at various countries - Spain, Greece, Guatemala and others: worth a gander, I think.

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