Judgment - Regina v. Bartle and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others EX Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division)
Regina v. Evans and another and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others EX Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division)

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    I return to the narrative. On 19 April 1978, while General Pinochet was still head of state, the senate passed a decree granting an amnesty to all persons involved in criminal acts (with certain exceptions) between 11 September 1973 and 10 March 1978. The purpose of the amnesty was stated to be for the "general tranquillity, peace and order" of the nation. After General Pinochet fell from power, the new democratic government appointed a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, thus foreshadowing the appointment of a similar commission in South Africa. The Commission consisted of eight civilians of varying political viewpoints under the chairmanship of Don Raul Rettig. Their terms of reference were to investigate all violations of human rights between 1973 and 1990, and to make recommendations. The Commission reported on 9 February 1991.

    In 1994 Senator Pinochet came to the United Kingdom on a special diplomatic mission: (he had previously been appointed senator for life). He came again in 1995 and 1997. According to the evidence of Professor Walters, a former foreign minister and ambassador to the United Kingdom, Senator Pinochet was accorded normal diplomatic courtesies. The Foreign Office was informed in advance of his visit to London in September 1998, where at the age of 82 he has undergone an operation at the London Clinic.

    At 11.25 p.m. on 16 October he was arrested while still at the London Clinic pursuant to a provisional warrant ("the first provisional warrant") issued under section 8(1)(b) of the Extradition Act 1989. The warrant had been issued by Mr. Evans, a metropolitan stipendiary magistrate, at his home at about 9 p.m. the same evening. The reason for the urgency was said to be that Senator Pinochet was returning to Chile the next day. We do not know the terms of the Spanish international warrant of arrest, also issued on 16 October. All we know is that in the first provisional warrant Senator Pinochet was accused of the murder of Spanish citizens in Chile between 11 September 1973 and 31 December 1983.

    For reasons explained by the Divisional Court the first provisional warrant was bad on its face. The murder of Spanish citizens in Chile is not an extradition crime under section 2(1)(b) of the Extradition Act for which Senator Pinochet could be extradited, for the simple reason that the murder of a British citizen in Chile would not be an offence against our law. The underlying principle of all extradition agreements between states, including the European Extradition Convention of 1957, is reciprocity. We do not extradite for offences for which we would not expect and could not request extradition by others.

    On 17 October the Chilean Government protested. The protest was renewed on 23 October. The purpose of the protest was to claim immunity from suit on behalf of Senator Pinochet both as a visiting diplomat and as a former head of state, and to request his immediate release.

    Meanwhile the flaw in the first provisional warrant must have become apparent to the Crown Prosecution Service, acting on behalf of the State of Spain. At all events, Judge Garzon in Madrid issued a second international warrant of arrest dated 18 October, alleging crimes of genocide and terrorism. This in turn led to a second provisional warrant of arrest in England issued on this occasion by Mr. Ronald Bartle. Senator Pinochet was re-arrested in pursuance of the second warrant on 23 October.

    The second warrant alleges five offences, the first being that Senator Pinochet "being a public official conspired with persons unknown to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on another in the . . . purported performance of his official duties . . . within the jurisdiction of the government of Spain." In other words, that he was guilty of torture. The reason for the unusual language is that the second provisional warrant was carefully drawn to follow the wording of section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which itself reflects article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984). Section 134(1) provides:

      "A public official or person acting in an official capacity, whatever his nationality, commits the offence of torture if in the United Kingdom or elsewhere he intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering on another in the performance or purported performance of his official duties."

It will be noticed that unlike murder, torture is an offence under English law wherever the act of torture is committed. So unlike the first provisional warrant, the second provisional warrant is not bad on its face. The alleged acts of torture are extradition crimes under section 2 of the Extradition Act, as article 8 of the Convention required, and as Mr. Nichols conceded. The same is true of the third alleged offence, namely, the taking of hostages. Section 1 of the Taking of Hostages Act 1982 creates an offence under English law wherever the act of hostage-taking takes place. So hostage taking, like torture, is an extradition crime. The remaining offences do not call for separate mention.

    It was argued that torture and hostage-taking only became extradition crimes after 1988 (torture) and 1982 (hostage-taking) since neither section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, nor section 1 of the Taking of Hostages Act 1982 are retrospective. But I agree with the Divisional Court that this argument is bad. It involves a misunderstanding of section 2 of the Extradition Act. Section 2(1)(a) refers to conduct which would constitute an offence in the United Kingdom now. It does not refer to conduct which would have constituted an offence then.

    The torture allegations in the second provisional warrant are confined to the period from 1 January 1988 to 31 December 1992. Mr. Alun Jones does not rely on conduct subsequent to 11 March 1990. So we are left with the period from 1 January 1988 to 11 March 1990. Only one of the alleged acts of torture took place during that period. The hostage-taking allegations relate to the period from 1 January 1982 to 31 January 1992. There are no alleged acts of hostage-taking during that period. So the second provisional warrant hangs on a very narrow thread. But it was argued that the second provisional warrant is no longer the critical document, and that we ought now to be looking at the complete list of crimes alleged in the formal request of the Spanish Government. I am content to assume, without deciding, that this is so.

    Returning again to the narrative, Senator Pinochet made an application for certiorari to quash the first provisional warrant on 22 October and a second application to quash the second provisional warrant on 26 October. It was these applications which succeeded before the Divisional Court on 28 October 1998, with a stay pending an appeal to your Lordships' House. The question certified by the Divisional Court was as to "the proper interpretation and scope of the immunity enjoyed by a former head of state from arrest and extradition proceedings in the United Kingdom in respect of acts committed while he was head of state."

    On 3 November 1998 the Chilean Senate adopted a formal protest against the manner in which the Spanish courts had violated the sovereignty of Chile by asserting extra-territorial jurisdiction. They resolved also to protest that the British Government had disregarded Senator Pinochet's immunity from jurisdiction as a former head of state. This latter protest may be based on a misunderstanding. The British Government has done nothing. This is not a case where the Secretary of State has already issued an authority to proceed under section 7 of the Extradition Act, since the provisional warrants were issued without his authority (the case being urgent) under section 8(1)(b) of the Act. It is true that the Secretary of State might have cancelled the warrants under section 8(4). But as the Divisional Court pointed out, it is not the duty of the Secretary of State to review the validity of provisional warrants. It was submitted that it should have been obvious to the Secretary of State that Senator Pinochet was entitled to immunity as a former head of state. But the Divisional Court rejected that submission. In the event leave to move against the Secretary of State was refused.

    There are two further points made by Professor Walters in his evidence relating to the present state of affairs in Chile. In the first place he gives a list of 11 criminal suits which have been filed against Senator Pinochet in Chile and five further suits where the Supreme Court has ruled that the 1978 amnesty does not apply. Secondly, he has drawn attention to public concern over the continued detention of Senator Pinochet.

     "I should add that there are grave concerns in Chile that the continued detention and attempted prosecution of Senator Pinochet in a foreign court will upset the delicate political balance and transition to democracy that has been achieved since the institution of democratic rule in Chile. It is felt that the current stable position has been achieved by a number of internal measures including the establishment and reporting of the Rettig Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. The intervention of a foreign court in matters more proper to internal domestic resolution may seriously undermine the balance achieved by the present democratic government."

Summary of Issues

    The argument has ranged over a very wide field in the course of a hearing lasting six days. The main issues which emerged can be grouped as follows:

(1) Is Senator Pinochet entitled to immunity as a former head of state at common law? This depends on the requirements of customary international law, which are observed and enforced by our courts as part of the common law.

(2) Is Senator Pinochet entitled to immunity as a former head of state under Part 1 of the State Immunity Act 1978? If not, does Part 1 of the State Immunity Act cut down or affect any immunity to which he would otherwise be entitled at common law?

(3) Is Senator Pinochet entitled to immunity as a former head of state under Part 3 of the State Immunity Act, and the articles of the Vienna Convention as set out in the schedule to the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964? It should be noticed that despite an assertion by the Chilean Government that Senator Pinochet is present in England on a diplomatic passport at the request of the Royal Ordnance, Miss Clare Montgomery Q.C. does not seek to argue that he is entitled to diplomatic immunity on that narrow ground, for which, she says, she cannot produce the appropriate evidence.

(4) Is this a case where the court ought to decline jurisdiction on the ground that the issues raised are non-justiciable?

    The last of these four heads is sometimes referred to as "the Act of State" doctrine, especially in the United States. But Act of State is a confusing term. It is used in different senses in many different contexts. So it is better to refer to non-justiciability. The principles of sovereign immunity and non-justiciability overlap in practice. But in legal theory they are separate. State immunity, including head of state immunity, is a principle of public international law. It creates a procedural bar to the jurisdiction of the court. Logically therefore it comes first. Non-justiciability is a principle of private international law. It goes to the substance of the issues to be decided. It requires the court to withdraw from adjudication on the grounds that the issues are such as the court is not competent to decide. State immunity, being a procedural bar to the jurisdiction of the court, can be waived by the state. Non-justiciability, being a substantive bar to adjudication, cannot.

Issue one: head of state immunity at common law

    As already mentioned, the common law incorporates the rules of customary international law. The matter is put thus in Oppenheim's International Law 9th ed. 1992, p. 57:

     "The application of international law as part of the law of the land means that, subject to the overriding effect of statute law, rights and duties flowing from the rules of customary international law will be recognised and given effect by English courts without the need for any specific Act adopting those rules into English law."

So what is the relevant rule of customary international law? I cannot put it better than it is put by the appellants themselves in para. 26 of their written case:

      "No international agreement specifically provides for the immunities of a former head of state. However, under customary international law, it is accepted that a state is entitled to expect that its former head of state will not be subjected to the jurisdiction of the courts of another state for certain categories of acts performed while he was head of state unless immunity is waived by the current government of the state of which he was once the head. The immunity is accorded for the benefit not of the former head of state himself but for the state of which he was once the head and any international law obligations are owed to that state and not to the individual."

    The important point to notice in this formulation of the immunity principle is that the rationale is the same for former heads of state as it is for current heads of state. In each case the obligation in international law is owed to the state, and not the individual, though in the case of a current head of state he will have a concurrent immunity ratione personae. This rationale explains why it is the state, and the state alone, which can waive the immunity. Where, therefore, a state is seeking the extradition of its own former head of state, as has happened in a number of cases, the immunity is waived ex hypothesi. It cannot be asserted by the former head of state. But here the situation is the reverse. Chile is not waiving its immunity in respect of the acts of Senator Pinochet as former head of state. It is asserting that immunity in the strongest possible terms, both in respect of the Spanish international warrant, and also in respect of the extradition proceedings in the United Kingdom.

    Another point to notice is that it is only in respect of "certain categories of acts" that the former head of state is immune from the jurisdiction of municipal courts. The distinction drawn by customary international law in this connection is between private acts on the one hand, and public, official or governmental acts on the other. Again I cannot put it better than it is put by the appellants in para. 27 of their written case. Like para. 26 it has the authority of Professor Greenwood; and like para. 26 it is not in dispute.

      "It is generally agreed that private acts performed by the former head of state attract no such immunity. Official acts, on the other hand, will normally attract immunity. . . . Immunity in respect of such acts, which has sometimes been applied to officials below the rank of head of state, is an aspect of the principle that the courts of one state will not normally exercise jurisdiction in respect of the sovereign acts of another state."

    The rule that a former head of state cannot be prosecuted in the municipal courts of a foreign state for his official acts as head of state has the universal support of writers on international law. They all speak with one voice. Thus Sir Arthur Watts K.C.M.G. Q.C. in his monograph on the Legal Position in International Law of Heads of States, Heads of Governments and Foreign Ministers (1994) Recueil des Cours vol. 247 at p. 89 says:

      "A head of state's official acts, performed in his public capacity as head of state, are however subject to different considerations. Such acts are acts of the state rather than the head of state's personal acts, and he cannot be sued for them even after he has ceased to be head of state."

In Satow's Guide to Diplomatic Practice 5th ed. we find:

      "2.2 The personal status of a head of a foreign state therefore continues to be regulated by long-established rules of customary international law which can be stated in simple terms. He is entitled to immunity--probably without exception - from criminal and civil jurisdiction . . .   2.4 A head of state who has been deposed or replaced or has abdicated or resigned is of course no longer entitled to privileges or immunities as a head of state. He will be entitled to continuing immunity in regard to acts which he performed while head of state, provided that the acts were performed in his official capacity; in this his position is no different from that of any agent of the state."

In Oppenheim's International Law 9th ed. para. 456, we find:

     "All privileges mentioned must be granted to a head of state only so long as he holds that position. Therefore, after he has been deposed or has abdicated, he may be sued, at least in respect of obligations of a private character entered into while head of state. For his official acts as head of state he will, like any other agent of a state, enjoy continuing immunity."