PINOCHET'S BRITISH VICTIMS
General Pinochet's victims included British subjects and their interests have been overlooked. It is lamentable that no effort has been made to bring him to trial for complicity to murder and torture in the UK. Why was the man not detained pending the completion of inquiries when he arrived? We have been lax in the welfare of our own citizens. The question of extradition to Spain should not have arisen. He has crimes to answer for in the UK.
Pinochet is old and frail but understands the nature of the crimes of which he stands accused. If extradition proceedings against Pinochet fail, he must not be allowed to return to Chile before the Metropolitan Police have completed their inquiries into his complicity in the abduction, torture and murder of William Beausire. There is also the torture of Dr Sheila Cassidy as well as the disappearances of Alejandro Davidson and William Woodward to be taken into consideration.
Pinochet has many friends in the British establishment and they probably consider themselves as patriots. Their type of patriotism strikes me as the variety practised from the refuge of scoundrels. Baroness Thatcher has been foremost in the defence of Pinochet. The fact that he helped us during the Falklands crisis is neither here nor there. The charges against him are a legal matter. Quite apart from the fact that Lady Thatcher's comments in support of General Pinochet are in conflict with British law, how can she profess to admire him as a staunch friend of Great Britain? How can she take tea with a man who bears the responsibility for the torture and murder of British subjects? Let us remember the facts.
William Beausire a British businessman with no political interests was abducted by Chilean secret police in Buenos Aires in November 1974, while on his way to the UK from Santiago. They took him back to Chile. He had committed no crime. They simply wanted to extract information from him. His sister was a friend of a nephew of deposed president Salvador Allende. For the next seven months poor William Beausire was horribly tortured. We know from witnesses that electrodes were attached to his genitals and forced into his rectum. They suspended him for hours from a wall by his arms. William Beausire was last seen alive on 2nd July 1975. He was being escorted from a torture centre in Santiago. His body has never been found.
Michael Woodward was a priest. He worked amongst the poor of Santiago. His arrest came soon after the coup in September 1973. He disappeared without trace. Alejandro Avalos Davidson was of mixed parentage. His father was Chilean and his mother British. Alejandro was a lecturer at the Catholic University in Santiago. He disappeared after being arrested by the secret police on the 20th November 1975. His body was discovered and decently buried fifteen years later.
Doctor Sheila Cassidy worked as a surgeon at a hospital in Santiago. A priest asked her and she agreed to treat an injured person on the run from the police. One week later Doctor Cassidy was arrested. She was stripped. Electrodes were applied to her body and inserted into her vagina. Her torture lasted five weeks.
In addition to Lady Thatcher, many prominent people in Britain have spoken out in favour of General Pinochet. Their voices come mainly from the Conservative Party and the business community. There have also been a few with a spark of conscience who see these people as apologists for a bloodthirsty dictator. For example, Aidan Rankin, secretary of a Conservatives for Human Rights group expressed horror that prominent Tories should speak out in support of Pinochet. In his view the Conservative Party needs to rediscover its support for human rights, and economic and social justice.
The views expressed by Julian Brazier, Conservative MP for Canterbury are more typical. He describes Pinochet as unattractive but thinks we should support him because of the benefits to British business and industry. The late Alan Clark had a way with words. He dismissed in his diary a Foreign Office briefing before a trip to Chile as all crap about Human Rights. Not one word about UK interest. Teresa Gorman, Conservative MP for Billericay places economic considerations above all else. She asserts that Pinochet should be allowed to return to Chile because jobs and contracts with the UK could be put in jeopardy.
It is said that every man has his price. The General apparently rewards his friends and supporters in the UK. I wonder if Lord Lamont gets a couple of bottles of Chilean plonk from the local off-licence. The editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore is said to receive a Christmas card. Columnist Anthony Daniels must get something as well for the things he says. He reminds readers that Pinochet was a murderer but also the saviour of his country. I remember rejecting the arguments of left-wingers trying to justify the abuses of human rights that occurred behind the Iron Curtain. It is odd to hear the same type of reasoning now coming from the right. Are we to suppose that the systematic torture of political opponents might be justified? Is it necessary to bathe democracy in blood every now and again?
Support for Pinochet in the UK has come from unexpected quarters. Patti Palmer-Tompkinson, a friend of Prince Charles is reported to have said, I'm prepared to stand up and be counted because General Pinochet saved Chile. The girl ought to be aware of the fate of those in Chile that stood up for what they believed.
It is odd to find myself in agreement with Michael Howard and I must diverge from his conclusion over the Pinochet affair. However, the former Home Secretary is correct to say that the Labour Government has got into a mess and will have to get out of it. Indeed it will.
In the first place the matter is legal but there will have to be a political decision in order to end the affair. The High Court accepted that Pinochet has a case to answer and his defence lawyers have never seriously denied that fact. The evidence of massive abuses of human rights is overwhelming. Pinochet's responsibility can be summed up in his own words, there is not a leaf in this country which I do not move.
I shall finish as I began. Pinochet needs to be brought to justice in a British court.
In the controversy over extradition, the interests of his British victims have been overlooked. In our passports we read that HM Secretary of State requests and requires, etc... What steps are HM Government prepared to take when those requests and requirements are ignored? We will be enthralled to know.
19th January 2000.
Tom Hawkins is a journalist who lives in Spain and writes for a publication, The Entertainer, distributed in Spain and Portugal for British expatriates.