Idea Of The Day

Extradition Proceedings

Baltazar Garzón, the Spanish judge who has chargedand imprisoned eight members of al-Qaida, is more famously known for his pursuit of the Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet several years ago. In 1998, while Pinochet was in Britain visiting, among others, his old friend Margaret Thatcher, Garzón issued a warrant for his arrest and demanded that he be extradited to Spain to stand trial. In Garzón’s opinion, Pinochet had committed crimes against humanity (the murder and torture of Chileans and of foreigners during and after the Pinochet coup of 1973) and should be tried accordingly. To the astonishment of many, Britain’s House of Lords ruled in March of 1999 that Pinochet could be extradited, although as things turned out a year later, the former dictator was allowed to return to Chile rather than face court proceedings in Spain after the British Home Secretary Jack Straw (now foreign secretary) deemed Pinochet unfit to stand trial. (On his return Chile, legal proceedings were brought against Pinochet only to fizzle out in July of 2001 when the general’s health failed again.)

When asked to comment on Garzón’s 1998 warrant, a State Department official declared the United States had “no opinion” on the matter, to the dismay of human rights advocates and anti-Pinochet supporters in Chile and elsewhere who had hoped, among other things, that the U.S. government might admit to its role in the Pinochet coup. (Henry Kissinger’s covert activities with regard to Chile were, and are, considered of special importance.) Now, with the United States likely to ask for the extradition of any accomplices of the Sept. 11 hijackers, one can expect Spanish authorities to meet these U.S. demands. However, if Judge Garzón were to issue a warrant for the extradition of Henry Kissinger as an accomplice to the coup of 1973, would the United States agree to such a demand?