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Lord Carter: My Lords, I should just like to remind the noble Baroness that this is a timed debate and the limit for each speaker is four minutes. The noble Baroness is now in her seventh minute. I wonder whether she could now bring her remarks to a close.
Henceforth, all former heads of government are potentially at risk; those still in government will be inhibited from taking the right action in a crisis, because they may later appear before a foreign court to answer for it and--this is where I was when I was interrupted--in a final ironic twist, those who do wield absolute power in their countries are highly unlikely now to relinquish it for fear of ending their days in a Spanish prison. This is a Pandora's box which has been opened--and unless Senator Pinochet returns safely to Chile, there will be no hope of closing it.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lamont for giving us this opportunity to discuss the matter and to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for giving me the opportunity of making one point clear. Yes, there are questions of law involved in this case which were considered by this House previously and which will be considered by the magistrates' court in due course. There are also questions of policy and discretion, which are solely for consideration by the Home Secretary. Everything that my noble friend said is entirely relevant to that process.
The most important feature about the case was stated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, when he said that it was of considerable general importance as this is "the first time" ever in the world, as far as one can see, that a national court,
Of course, one has to recognise the legitimacy of extending international law, but, against that, one has to set the hazards and dangers of trying to intervene in the process of reconciliation in a country as finely balanced as Chile has been. It is that which the Home Secretary has failed to do and it is something that he needs to do properly. There is an additional reason for him to do it properly; namely, the observations of the Law Lords in this House about the huge transformation of the case since it first appeared before the Home Secretary for his consideration.
"profound change in the scope of the case". Finally, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, said that the decision now transformed the case which the Secretary of State had to consider.
The last of these alleged offences took place more than 10 years ago. The warrants under the Extradition Act were first issued on 16th October of last year. The Divisional Court heard the habeas corpus application 10 days later and, within six weeks, the House of Lords had also heard the case. So the case was proceeding with the expedition that was appropriate. Since then, because of the judicial hazards, months have passed and the case, having been last heard by the House of Lords on 24th March, still has months to go before it reaches the magistrates' court at the end of September. All that time it casts a shadow over relations between three friendly countries which are struggling to maintain good relationships.
More important still, as my noble friend Lady Thatcher pointed out, an 83 year-old former head of state, whose health cannot be getting any better, is entering the ninth month of house arrest in this country. One cannot fail to contemplate the parallel with the case of Rudolf Hess. I hesitate to contemplate the consequences. If the senator should die in our custody, someone whom others seek to present as a monster will
Lord Monson: My Lords, when I put my name down to speak last Thursday, I could not have imagined that I would find myself in such distinguished company. I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. I should like to commend him on the assiduous way in which he has been pursuing the matter these past months by means of a stream of questions for written answer.
Although I have some first-hand knowledge of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, I have never visited South America proper, and am as far from being an expert on that particular continent as can be imagined. I intervene only because, as an Englishman, I have been ashamed at this country's treatment of someone who, whatever may have happened elsewhere in years gone by, was a much-needed friend and ally of ours in 1982, and someone who had on numerous previous occasions been welcomed in this country, not only by the previous administration but also by the present administration. Not even the most ruthless Bedouin chieftain would invite an honoured guest into his tent and then seize and shackle him.
In contrast, the French refused the general a visa, as any self-governing country is perfectly entitled to do for any reason that they choose. Although this refusal by the French demonstrated a degree of double standards in that France has often tolerated and even welcomed heads of state, or former heads of state, who make General Pinochet look like a boy scout, at least the French position is vastly more honourable than the current British one. All the more so in the light of the massive covert help given by General Pinochet to Britain during the fight to liberate the Falkland Islands, without which there could have been hundreds more British casualties, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, has just pointed out. Indeed, much of the task force might have been sent to the bottom of the South Atlantic, the islanders might still be enslaved, and General Galtieri might still be reigning in Buenos Aires.
The Government are claiming, in justification of their refusal to send General Pinochet back to Chile, that the executive cannot and must not interfere with the judicial process. Why in that case are the British Government,
Finally, the Question asks about the effect of this policy on Anglo-Chilean relations. We know that relations are already damaged, not least because of the unhappy cancellation of the vital air link between Chile and the Falklands--and the damage is likely to get worse. This is not primarily because of General Pinochet himself, towards whom public attitudes in Chile vary enormously, but because it appears to the Chileans that Britain is siding with the former colonial power in what seems like that power's attempt to reimpose a degree of colonial control over Chile.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I think that it has become clear during the course of this debate so far that the Government stand accused of lack of wisdom, inconsistency and perhaps above all the desire to make obeisance to the political gods which they worshipped at university in the 1960s.
We have seen great changes in many countries in the past decade or so, as my noble friend Lord Lamont has pointed out: in South Africa, in the former countries of the Soviet empire, and indeed in Chile. We ourselves of course are trying to bring conflict to an end in the Province of Northern Ireland.
Perhaps a feature of the more successful of those transitions--particularly in South Africa and in Chile, and, indeed, we hope in Northern Ireland--has been the effort to reconcile two previously warring sides: white and black in South Africa; Nationalist and Unionist in Northern Ireland; and the forces of liberal democracy and former Communists in Chile.
In order to build a new future, the countries concerned have suggested that it is better to look for reconciliation rather than revenge. That has been their choice. When they have occasionally looked for revenge, that has been their choice too. As a number of my noble friends have pointed out this evening, Chile is now a successful example of the wisdom of attempts at reconciliation rather than revenge. It is a judgment that a sovereign state has made for itself.
I have to ask, along with my noble friends, therefore: by what right do we interfere in that settlement and risk reviving the very divisions which are now being healed in a country learning to build for the future, and to build successfully? Even if we did not owe Chile a debt of gratitude--which indeed we do--even if we did not want to imperil our trade, do we really think it wise in the name of humanity for the Home Secretary to fail to exercise his discretion--because of his former views for which he campaigned so stridently in the 60s--to second-guess Chile's own decision to reconcile and look to the future?
Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, I am full of admiration for my noble friend Lord Lamont in his persistence in inquiring into this deplorable affair. I agree with every word he said and every word which
I must ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to stand by while this case goes on, like Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. Our law really has not improved much since Dickens' day. Do they not foresee what will happen and what may be said if Senator Pincochet, who is an old man, dies in custody in this country? It is a dreadful prospect and I ask them seriously to consider it because unless they do something it is likely to happen. For those of us who love this country and its great traditions the shame of it will be hard to bear.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, a head of state is criminally responsible for acts of torture committed by his subordinates if it is proved that he knowingly presided over a regime of institutionalised torture conducted by them. This long settled rule of international law is incorporated in a number of international conventions and most recently, in 1998, in
This is the background to the arrest of General Pinochet. His criminal responsibility, if any, is a matter for a court with the appropriate jurisdiction to determine. Two weeks ago the Chilean College of Medicine reported that at least 200,000 people had been tortured by government forces during the 17-year rule of General Pinochet. But the question is, did General Pinochet have any inkling that this degree of torture was going on under his rule?
Among the 5,000 documents that were released last Thursday, 1st July, by the United States Government, there is the following CIA report 10 days after the coup, on September 21st 1973--the period referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. This is of course 15 years before the matters into which the magistrate is inquiring, and therefore is not sub judice. The report said that at that time--10 days after the coup--
I have some experience of extradition procedures from a case which lasted some seven years through the English courts before my client was extradited. It so happens that the leaders of General Pinochet's legal team acted for the territory then requesting extradition in that case. There is nothing they will not have learned about the tenacious use of extradition procedures which will certainly ensure that General Pinochet remains comfortably in his Wentworth home this time next year and beyond.
But what about prosecution? If the proper machinery is put in motion in this country, there is no bar whatever to General Pinochet being prosecuted at the Old Bailey or anywhere else for conspiracy to torture under Section 134(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 for offences committed after 29th September of that year. Whether General Pinochet be guilty or innocent, justice would be immensely swifter, as many noble Lords have asked, and certainly less expensive. The same witnesses who will now occupy months before the extraditing magistrate would give exactly the same evidence in the same period of time but before a British jury. Extradition requests have been received from not only Spain but France, Switzerland and Belgium. The English courts have the same jurisdiction as any of those countries.
As for Anglo-Chilean relations, do the people of Chile really want him back? It is my belief that the return of the General will exacerbate the domestic problems of Chile. Noble Lords will recall how the present Commander-in-Chief, General Ricardo Izurieta, travelled to London without informing the democratically elected President, Eduardo Frei, to affirm to anyone who would listen that General Pinochet is not guilty of any charges of torture or other crimes against humanity, a position which was contrary to the civilian government. They were arguing that no trial should take place in Chile. I believe that the courts of democratic and free countries should decide the General's fate.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, we believe that if there is a case to answer, it should be answered in Chile. General Pinochet has always been the bogey man of the British Left since the early 1970s. The Left has always seen Allende as a socialist hero and has never forgiven the man who toppled him. It chooses to forget that at that time Chile was in chaos and facing social and economic collapse--anarchy. It was against that background that General Pinochet came to power and, in effect, a civil war ensued. I do not intend to say any more about those years, except to say that, as we have seen recently, civil wars are nasty, brutal affairs where innocent civilians are caught in the middle.
General Pinochet returned the country to multi-party democracy in 1988; a stronger country, where the rule of law prevails and economic prosperity flourishes. Democracy can be a fragile institution. Many countries in South America do not have democratic government. Argentina now has democracy because the generals fell; and the reason the generals fell was because my noble friend Lady Thatcher stood up to them when they invaded the Falkland Islands. My noble friend's prompt action defeated the junta; and then its own countrymen threw it out. That influenced regimes all over that continent; the democratic process was restarted and snowballed faster than ever before.
What are the views of the Chilean people and what messages are the Government by their action sending to that continent? I say the wrong ones. The Chilean Government, the political parties, the armed forces, even the trade unions are united in agreement that if there is a case to be answered, it should be answered in Chile. They regard the arrest and the treatment of this case by the Government as an attack against Chilean sovereignty, an attack on Chilean law and an attack on
When General Pinochet arrived in this country, he was treated as a welcome guest. When he leaves these shores, it should be to go home. What signals are the Government sending if they do otherwise? The signals are that any politician--or perhaps a member of an armed force--visiting these shores can be subjected to politically motivated proceedings instigated from a third country. What ruler in any of our former colonies will have the incentive to return his country to democracy?
If we were examining this issue with regard to extradition to the international criminal court, it would be a different matter; but we are not. If we were considering this issue for extradition back to the home country, it would be a different matter; but we are not. I repeat, if there is a case to answer, it should be answered in Chile. The Home Secretary will have discretion at various stages during this case. I hope that he will not be trapped by the mantra of old Labour.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Unstarred Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, asks what were the circumstances and background of the arrest; what was the role of the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, Ministers and the Diplomatic Service; and what has been the effect on Anglo-Chilean relations.
Many of the assertions that have been made--I regret to say that many of them were unworthy and ignoble--have little relevance that I could detect to the Question tabled by the noble Lord. A very significant number of wrong assertions--I put it neutrally--have been made.
Senator Pinochet was not provided with any protection from the Metropolitan Police until after his arrest. It is asserted that the first warrant was illegal; in fact, the Divisional Court specifically said that the Home Secretary was not wrong in not exercising his discretion to cancel the first warrant; that was the rule of the courts; not the executive. The noble Viscount said that it was for Chile to try Senator Pinochet. As far as I am aware, we have had no extradition request from Chile.
It is asserted without any basis at all--I utterly repudiate it--that the Home Secretary was motivated as a result of an organised international Left conspiracy bent on revenge. That is unworthy; it is wholly untrue. It will be, of course, disagreeable for me to point out that we are bound by international obligations. The extradition request to which we responded was confirmed by the Spanish Government, who, far from being part of the international Left conspiracy, are a centre-right coalition government.
Senator Pinochet landed at Heathrow on 22nd September for a private visit. He is a Chilean citizen; no visa was required. He was granted leave to enter. He made use with his party on arrival of the VIP suite at Heathrow, which is routinely--I repeat, routinely--made available as a courtesy to former heads of state. On 14th October, the Fifth Central Magistrates' Court in Madrid contacted the Metropolitan Police via Interpol with a request to interview Senator Pinochet. On 15th October, Foreign and Commonwealth officials were informed by the Chilean Embassy that consideration was being given to his leaving on 20th October. On 16th October, the FCO was informed by the Chilean Embassy that a seat on a flight to Santiago had been secured for him. That information was passed to no one outside the United Kingdom Government--I repeat, no one.
When arrested--and I have had this checked and rechecked on a number of occasions in deference to the persistence which the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, has shown in asking his many questions--Senator Pinochet was not arrested by armed officers of the Metropolitan Police. When I receive that information from the Metropolitan Police, I, for one, accept and believe it.
The police telephoned FCO officials for advice as to whether Senator Pinochet enjoyed diplomatic immunity from arrest. They were informed that there were no grounds on the basis of diplomatic immunity for not proceeding with a provisional arrest warrant. It is well known that the possession of a diplomatic passport is not proof in itself of immunity.
I turn now to the legal structures. The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, complained quite bitterly about, and criticised, the mechanisms of extradition in this country. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, criticised what had gone on; so did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe. The present basis of extradition in this country is entirely the Extradition Act 1989. That was passed when the noble Baroness was Prime Minister; when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, was Foreign Secretary and then Deputy Prime Minister; and when the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, was Financial Secretary and then Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I make those points not in any partisan or personal way, but simply to demonstrate to the many who will attend to these debates outside this Chamber and across the world that this has nothing to do with legal devices introduced by the present Government. The Home Secretary has behaved properly in a quasi-judicial way, without fear
It is therefore important that our friends and colleagues in South America should understand that this legislation was not brought in to be "Senator Pinochet-specific". It was introduced by the former government, of whom the noble Baroness was then the Prime Minister. These are important matters. We do our own country no service at all with extravagant language, misinformation and assertions which are simply not based on any factual evidence.
A comparison of sorts was made between Senator Pinochet's case and the case of Hess, deputy Fuhrer to Hitler, found guilty of playing a significant part in the orchestration of the holocaust. I wonder where proportion is when we discuss these matters.
I am not qualified to observe on the charges against Senator Pinochet. I have not studied the evidence. The charges are serious. They are of torture and conspiracy to torture. I refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, pointed out to the House. Some of his remarks were plainly not palatable to many of your Lordships. These are serious charges. Our reputation was described as "shattered". I refute that utterly. What our country's reputation internationally depends upon--and in my opinion is properly founded on; that is, if one's view is based on history rather than the convenience of the moment--is respect and reverence for the rule of law. It has not been possible, despite every effort that has been made by way of legal challenge, inquiry and inquisition, to demonstrate at all that any step has been taken that was not utterly lawful and entirely consistent with our international obligations and the regime set down under the Extradition Act 1989.
A challenge was made to your Lordships' House. The House initially came to the conclusion that many of the offences alleged against Senator Pinochet were extraditable, therefore justiciable, in Spain. Following that--the criticism of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, in the terms in which it was made was entirely inappropriate and unworthy--the House of Lords then ruled again. It is simply not true to say that the House of Lords sitting judicially required Jack Straw to reconsider and that he failed to do so; quite the opposite is the truth. He was invited, not "required", to reconsider, and he spent a certain amount of time reconsidering, as is perfectly well known to the lawyers representing Senator Pinochet.
In my opinion, the police in this country behaved properly. They discharged their duty in the way that they ought. They did not instigate proceedings. They are in fact the proper servants of the public good, which is the true administration of the law without fear or favour according to what the law requires.
The CPS has been criticised, although not this evening; perhaps it has been overlooked. It is, and has to be, agent for the Government of Spain pursuant to Section 3(2)(g) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. That is what the CPS has been doing.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, asked me what was happening and what had been going on between those in Chile and those in this country. On a number of occasions, senators and Ministers from Chile have come to see me. I promised faithfully, and discharged that duty, to transmit whatever they told me to officials. On 28th October last year, Chilean senators from all sides of the political spectrum came to see me. We had a lengthy, courteous and patient discussion. There was no hysteria in any of their representations. I refer to Senators Matthei, Cariola, Cordeio and Morales. On 10th November last year, I saw the Chilean Ambassador and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mariano Fernandez and Mario Artaza. On 31st March, again at the request of our colleagues in Chile, I saw Chilean Senator Mario Cariola; and I saw again the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mariano Fernandez, with Mario Artaza and Herman Guerrero. They were perfectly content, courteous and patient in listening to what I said, which I believed to be well founded.
The Chileans, for reasons that I recognise and honour, wish their own country to have absolute sovereignty in these matters. That is a view which, I repeat, I respect, as I have always demonstrated to them. There is an alternative claim. It is the claim of obligation under international law, and it is the claim that domestic governments here are subject to the will of Parliament, which was expressed in the 1989 Act as recently as the last but one government.
There is no conspiracy to hound Senator Pinochet here. What will do lasting, avoidable harm to our relationships with our friends and colleagues in South America is the sort of ill judged, disproportionate, hysterical language that we have heard tonight. President Frei has been quoted on one or two occasions. Perhaps I may offer another recent quotation from him: It is not the responsibility of the executive branch of government to participate in any action that does not respect the courts. That is what we have been saying, as patiently as we can, for the past eight months.
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