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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, leaving aside the particular circumstances today, I believe that the House will welcome what the noble and learned Lord has said. But when the usual channels have had their discussions, is this not an appropriate matter for wider discussion in the Procedure Committee? Will he promise that it will go there in due course?
Lord Carter: My Lords, before we move to the two Statements on General Pinochet, it may be helpful if I remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords since the Back Bench interventions are strictly limited to up to 20 minutes in total.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place.
"This morning I informed the House by Written Answer that I had discharged Senator Pinochet from the Spanish extradition request, on the grounds that he was unfit to stand trial and that no significant improvement in his condition could be expected. I also reported my decision not to issue an Authority to Proceed in the competing extradition requests from Belgium, France and Switzerland because none of these disclosed an extradition crime. A detailed explanation of my reasons is included in my Answer.
"The House will also now be aware, from the Written Answer given earlier today by my right honourable and learned friend the Solicitor-General that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided that, on the material available to him, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction in this jurisdiction and, in any event, in the light of the medical condition of Senator Pinochet, no court here would allow a trial to take place. My right honourable and learned friend will be making a Statement to the House immediately after mine.
"This morning, Senator Pinochet departed from his bail address at Wentworth and was driven under police escort to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. He left the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at 1.10 p.m.
"Let me now give the House a full account of what happened in this case as I said I would once the proceedings were concluded. I begin by making some general observations. My role under the Extradition Act 1989 is a quasi-judicial one. Although neither is generally incorporated into our domestic law, both the European Extradition Convention and the United Nations Torture Convention place important obligations on the UK, but I have to discharge those obligations within the powers and responsibilities placed on me by UK law.
"All the decisions which I have taken have been mine alone, and have not been decisions of Her Majesty's Government. Throughout, I have been keenly aware of the gravity of the crimes allegedly committed by Senator Pinochet, and of the desire for justice by those who suffered at the hands of the former Chilean regime. This has been an unprecedented case. Both I and the courts have had to navigate in uncharted territory. Two Judicial Committees of the House of Lords took different views about what offences constituted extradition crimes. More recently, Mr Justice Maurice Kay ruled that my refusal of Belgium's request for disclosure of the medical report which I had commissioned was correct: shortly afterwards a full Divisional Court, while acknowledging strong arguments on both sides, came to the opposite view.
"Senator Pinochet's solicitors made representations to me on 21st October 1998, asking me to cancel this provisional arrest warrant. I declined to do so on the basis that the issues raised at this stage were a matter for the court. They challenged my decision. A Divisional Court, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, rejected that challenge and awarded me my costs. The court nevertheless quashed the warrant on the grounds that Senator Pinochet had sovereign immunity as a former head of state and that the warrant did not disclose an extradition crime. The Crown Prosecution service, acting on behalf of Spain, then entered an appeal to the House of Lords. In a unique feature of this case, the issue was considered twice by the House of Lords, first in November 1998 and then, after the first judgment was vacated, in March 1999. The key majority finding of the second court was that torture was an international crime over which the parties to the Torture Convention had universal jurisdiction and that a former head of state did not have immunity from such crimes. This ruling was a landmark judgment in human rights law, whose impact has been felt far beyond our shores. It will be a permanent legacy of the Pinochet case.
"The second House of Lords judgment restricted the scope and number of the alleged crimes in respect of which Senator Pinochet could be extradited to torture and conspiracy to torture committed in Chile after the UK's ratification of the Torture Convention in December 1988. These charges were of course still extremely serious. I issued a second Authority to Proceed on 14th April 1999, giving my reasons. A second judicial challenge by Senator Pinochet's representatives was again rejected by the Divisional Court. On 8th October 1999 Senator Pinochet was committed by the Bow Street Magistrates' Court to await my decision whether or not to extradite him to Spain. Senator Pinochet's solicitors applied for habeas corpus and a hearing date was set for 20th March this year.
"On 14th October 1999, I received representations from the Chilean Embassy, supported by medical reports, which suggested that there had been a recent and significant deterioration in Senator Pinochet's health. I commissioned a medical examination of Senator Pinochet by a team of independent practitioners of outstanding national and international reputation in their fields. The team consisted of Professor Sir John Grimley
"I should like to put on record my gratitude to Sir John Grimley Evans and his expert medical team for their assistance. They have performed a very significant public service. They have not been able to speak freely in explaining and, where necessary, defending their findings, despite widespread public scrutiny.
"The clinicians were instructed to undertake the examination to provide me with a fully comprehensive report on the state of Senator Pinochet's health. In particular, they were asked to advise whether there were any aspects of Senator Pinochet's health which suggested that he was not then fit, or was likely to become unfit, to stand trial in Spain. They were told that I was particularly interested in Senator Pinochet's ability to follow a line of questioning, to recall events, some of which took place as long ago as the 1970s, and to give coherent evidence. They were asked to advise me on whether Senator Pinochet could be feigning any of his symptoms.
"As I disclosed in my Statement on 12th January, the conclusions of the medical report, applying the tests I had outlined to them, indicated that Senator Pinochet was unfit to stand trial and that no significant improvement in that position could be expected. The Government's Chief Medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, confirmed the quality and thoroughness of the report. I am placing the report in the Library.
"I informed the interested parties on 11th January that in the light of this medical evidence and subject to any representations received by 18th January, I was minded to conclude that no purpose would be served by continuing the Spanish extradition request.
"On 25th January a judicial review application was made by Belgium and Amnesty International for disclosure of the medical report. In inviting Senator Pinochet to undertake the medical examination, officials on my behalf had given an undertaking of confidentiality. I indicated to the Divisional Court that, while I would have preferred to disclose the medical report to the requesting states, I considered myself bound by the undertaking I had given, subject to any overriding public interest. Mr Justice Maurice Kay held that the report should not be disclosed, but a full Divisional Court, in a judgment of 15th February, said that whilst the issue had been a very difficult one, the need for transparency to the requesting states in this exceptional case outweighed any duty of confidentiality. It however said that I should disclose the report to Spain, Belgium, France and Switzerland only in terms of strict confidence. I complied with that judgment. I regret to say that the content of this report was almost immediately leaked to the press.
"Requesting states were invited to make any representation on the medical report by Tuesday 22nd February 2000. The representations included opinions from medical practitioners questioning the conclusions of the report.
'I was very impressed with the care with which Sir John (and his team) has responded to each of the points of criticism of their report. This is not a crude rebuttal - it is a sound and logical reply supported by clinical evidence. I believe it is a further reflection of the skill, integrity and independence with which this task has been carried out by the clinicians'.
"The principle that an accused person should be mentally capable of following the proceedings, instructing lawyers and giving coherent evidence is fundamental to the idea of a fair trial. The trial of an accused in the condition diagnosed in Senator Pinochet, on the charges which have been made against him in this case, could not be fair in any country, and would violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights in those countries which are party to it.
"A number of the representations which I received argued that even if there were questions about Senator Pinochet's fitness for trial, these should be determined in Spain and not here. I looked at this question with great care. However, I was advised and I concluded that on the basis of English law I was bound to form a view of my own on Senator Pinochet's fitness to stand trial and that I could not refrain from reaching such a view on the basis that the question could be determined in Spain.
"In any event, I established with the assistance of the Spanish authorities that their principles for determining the fitness of an accused to stand trial were similar to ours. I therefore concluded that given the advice that no improvement in Senator Pinochet's condition could be expected, no judicial purpose would have been served by the continuation of extradition proceedings for the objective of a trial in Spain which could not result in any verdict on the charges against him.
"Of the 70,000 letters and e-mails from the public which I have received from all over the world, and many letters from Members of Parliament and organisations, almost all have urged me to allow the extradition proceedings to take their course, so that the allegations made against Senator Pinochet could
"The case has taken 17 months, much in court proceedings. While the House of Lords hearings on state immunity were an exceptional feature, this is not an unusual period of time in a complex contested extradition case. The Extradition Act is now over a decade old and I believe the time has come to review it. Work on this was, in fact, already under way before the Pinochet case began, and I intend to publish a consultation paper in due course on options for streamlining our extradition procedures.
"It has understandably aroused great debate and feeling, and its impact has been felt world-wide. It has established, beyond question, the principle that those who commit human rights abuses in one country cannot assume that they are safe elsewhere. That will be its lasting legacy".
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating in this House this long and important Statement. I think that the main reaction of many of us to the events of today is one of relief that the matter has finally been decided and that our diplomatic and trade relations with Chile and, more widely, South America, can start to be rebuilt.
Can the Minister tell us whether the Foreign Office or any other part of the Government--the noble Lord answers for the whole Government--had any indication of the likelihood of the Spanish extradition request before they welcomed Senator Pinochet to Britain? Can the Minister confirm that on two occasions, before the visit of Senator Pinochet in 1998 which led to all these proceedings, Senator Pinochet had been welcomed as a VIP by this Government?
I turn to the later events. Can the Minister confirm that the idea that an attempt should be made to keep the medical report confidential, which ultimately failed, was the suggestion of the Home Secretary and not of Senator Pinochet or his advisers? The Statement says that the Chilean Government raised the medical questions and gave the medical report to the Home Secretary in October 1999. But when did Senator Pinochet's lawyers raise such medical doubts with the Home Secretary?
It is right that extradition law should be reconsidered in the light of this case. But will that consideration include the involvement of political figures, such as the Home Secretary of the day, in such difficult decisions as the present Home Secretary has had to face, particularly in view of the possibility that that Home Secretary may be influenced by political considerations or, for that matter, by his political background? After all, the present Home Secretary was involved in Chilean matters many years ago. Secondly, is it intended that the review should include our extradition arrangements with the Republic of Ireland?
In reflecting on everything that has happened and considering possible questions for the extradition review, I conclude that it is undesirable that where a country is trying to go through a period of reconciliation--as are Chile, South Africa and various other countries, including ourselves in the Irish context--the government and law of other countries should interfere with that reconciliation and make it more difficult.
Lord McNally: My Lords, is the Minister aware that we on these Benches believe that the Home Secretary has had a difficult decision to make but that he carried out his responsibilities with scrupulous fairness and great compassion?
It is regrettable that General Pinochet will escape standing trial in Spain. The Home Secretary made two points which should be underlined. First, the crimes of which Pinochet was accused were serious, and in normal circumstances he deserved to face justice for them. Secondly, the Home Secretary is right to express concern for those who suffered under the Pinochet regime or lost loved ones at the hands of his torturers. They will have a real sense of justice denied today and have our sympathy.
I welcome what the Home Secretary said about speeding up the extradition process. In relation to the medical evidence which clearly swayed the Home Secretary's judgment, and without trying to counter the expertise that was brought to bear, much of the evidence of disability was circumstantial rather than clinical. I understand that General Pinochet refused to co-operate with a Belgian request for a second opinion. Should an accused in such circumstances have the right to resist such a request? In any event, let us hope that General Pinochet does not experience a miracle cure of his disabilities as his plane crosses the Andes.
The Home Secretary chose to ignore the European convention on extradition in these exceptional circumstances. Can the Minister confirm that that in no way weakens the Government's commitment to see established an international criminal court to try such cases? When will they ratify the ICC treaty? The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, in July 1998 stated in Parliament that it was the Government's intention to be among the first 60 countries to ratify the treaty. We hope that that momentum is not lost.
In the meantime, while we understand why the Home Secretary made his judgment under English law, it is strange that he should second-guess Spanish law. Is it not normal to let all legal processes go forward and allow the Spanish courts to make their judgment on whether or not the general should face trial?
We acknowledge that this was not an easy decision. But the Minister should be aware that General Pinochet leaves our shores because of the Home Secretary's sense of compassion, a compassion the general did not show to the people of Chile during his years of repression and torture. He may be too mentally impaired to stand trial, but he knows that we abhor what he did and what he stands for. We send to the people of Chile our good wishes that democracy and human rights will continue to flourish there, and trust that they take the appropriate decisions now that the general is returning to Chile to defend those rights in the future. For Pinochet and today's generation of murderers and torturers, we should strengthen the message that we intend to create a system of international justice which, for them, will provide no hiding place.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall try to deal with some of the questions raised. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, suggested that there may have been some collusion between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Spanish authorities. There was no such collusion. There was no connection between the two bodies. The arrest was a matter for the police acting on information provided to them through Interpol.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also asked when Senator Pinochet's advisers first raised the issue of his ill health and expressed some doubts over his medical condition. The Statement made clear that that was primarily in October last year.
In relation to the review of extradition, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary reasonably concluded that, as a result of this case, which perhaps because of its complexities took as long as it did, there is a case for reviewing the procedures. Quite rightly, he wants to see what can be undertaken to speed them up. That is an important development.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, also raised the question of bias in the Home Secretary's mode of consideration. My right honourable friend had an almost impossible job in this particularly difficult and complex case. He exercised his powers and duties to the highest level.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, raised the issue of reconciliation and drew comparisons with Northern Ireland. But each case--Northern Ireland, South Africa, Chile--involves different political circumstances. The process of reconciliation in Chile has not been damaged by the consideration of Senator Pinochet's case. It is clearly a matter for the Chileans to resolve. We acted quite properly in regard to the issues facing our Government. That will be respected and acknowledged not only in this country, but also internationally.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, raised a number of points and I suspect that there will be great sympathy for those points. He mentioned specifically the Spanish courts and said that they were perhaps best placed to consider matters relating to Senator Pinochet. We did not take that view. The Home Secretary took the view that he had to exercise his duties. I believe he did so very fairly indeed, with the Crown Prosecution Service effectively acting as an agency of the Spanish authorities. The Home Secretary was properly advised in the way in which he conducted himself. He felt it right that he should personally take such decisions rather than off-loading them somewhere else. Again, that is a reflection of the integrity of the Home Secretary and of the very careful way in which he has handled and managed this most difficult affair.
I am most grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken for their contributions. If I have missed particular points, we can no doubt return to them. We obviously await with interest further developments and comments.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that many of us are concerned not only about the legal developments in this case but also about the long-term political consequences of such developments, which we simply cannot ignore? It is acknowledged that General Pinochet was welcomed to this country. I have to ask--I use this as just one example--what sort of welcome do the Government plan for President Mugabe when he next comes to this country, after the slaughter, torture and rape of thousands of civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s, which has now been revealed? Is he not just one of many from all over the world? Indeed, there are people in China and Russia who have committed the most ghastly crimes and who, from now on, will be at risk if they travel outside their own countries and come here.
What is the Government's answer to this question? What will happen when the next person comes to represent Russia and people raise questions about murder and pillage in Chechnya? What will happen when someone comes from China--a country with
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