Arrest of Chilean dictator warranted

Last weekend saw the arrest of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in London, where he was seeking medical treatment. Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, was arrested by British officials acting on a request from a Spanish magistrate who wants the general extradited to Spain to be tried for crimes against humanity. In particular, Pinochet is wanted on charges of genocide and terrorism. The arrest warrant made specific reference to the disappearance of a Chilean citizen who was kidnapped and tortured and has been missing since 1976. Pinochet’s arrest was an important event, and was the right thing to do in the fight against those who violate human rights.
Pinochet’s record is one of undeniable brutality. His rise to power came about when the Chilean military seized the government from democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973. Ruling for 17 years, Pinochet’s record includes the murder, torture or disappearance of more than 4,000 people. Chile has more or less returned to democracy, but Pinochet remains a presence in the South American nation. Under the Chilean constitution he is immune from prosecution in his home country and has been appointed Senator-for-life.
However, Pinochet is not immune from prosecution under international law. The dictator claims that he should have been protected by diplomatic immunity and not arrested, but the crimes with which Pinochet is charged are not the type that diplomatic immunity was created for. In addition, in recent times international law has moved to the opinion that, in cases of crimes against humanity and acts of terrorism, world leaders can be held responsible for their personal actions. Pinochet can and should be held responsible for the crimes he has committed.
Already in his 80’s, some might say that Pinochet’s crimes should remain in the past and the world should forget they ever happened. This is the wrong approach to take. The world must be vigorous in its prosecution of those who violate the standards of human decency and conduct.
Actions such as the one taken in London this weekend are appropriate to take against practitioners of genocide like Pinochet. In an age when Americans are increasingly cynical about government, it is refreshing to see an example of leadership being taken overseas. The United Kingdom could have easily let Pinochet go home and the world would have been none the wiser. Instead, they chose to make a stand for what is right, and arrested him.
The importance of the work of Baltasar Garzon, the tenacious Spanish judge who has led the case against Pinochet, cannot be understated. This is a man who works under tight security and has received death threats but still has not given up his fight against the man who committed mayhem in Chile and Argentina.
Pinochet should be extradited and tried for crimes against humanity. It is the legally correct action to take, as well as the moral one. Cheers to the Spanish and British for the arrest of this man. Democracies must be responsible for making the world safe for other democracies. One way to do so is to take killers like Pinochet out of circulation. Successful prosecution of Pinochet will alert other world dictators that their actions will not go unpunished.