28 OCTOBER

SHIP’S CREW SAVED BUT ‘NOT EVEN ANY OF OUR CLOTHES OR ONE SLAVE.’

[ 28 October 1763 ]

The London registered Phoenix was carrying 332 slaves crammed into its hold from Africa towards Maryland on the United States’ mid-Atlantic coastline.

BRITAIN’S HIGH COURT – CHILEAN’S TYRANT PINOCHET CAN’T BE PROSECUTED

Augusto Pinochet c. 1986 – Library of the Chilean National Congress – CC BY 3.0 CL.

[ 28 October 1998 ]

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was responsible for the disappearance, torture and murder of thousands, but today in 1998, Britain’s High Court cleared him of any criminal liability. Pinochet’s lawyers had successfully defended their client by relying on the State Immunity Act 1978, which they claimed absolved the general of any legal consequences on the grounds that he was head of state when he committed the crimes. Labour MP Tony Benn noted in his diaries. ‘So, if Hitler, Mussolini or France or Saddam or Milosevic came to London, they would be free to come and stay – amazing, but that is the British court system for you.’1

Pinochet had arrived in the United Kingdom a few days earlier for medical treatment and Britain had been forced to react to an arrest warrant issued by the Spanish government. A month after the court decision, on 25 November, Britain’s highest court, the Law Lords, overturned the High Court ruling and upheld the extradition request, but fourteen months later, on 12 January 2000, Britain’s Home Secretary Jack Straw intervened, insisting that Pinochet’s health was too fragile for him to stand trial and allowing the torturer and mass killer to return to Chile on 3 March 2000 on humanitarian grounds. Pinochet miraculously regained his strength immediately after landing at Santiago airport, standing up from his wheelchair in response to acclaim from supporters.

FOOTNOTE

  1. Ruth Winstone, Tony Benn: Free at Last ! Diaries 1991-2001, Arrow Books, London, 2003, p. 507.

Please feel welcome to post comments below.  If you have any questions please email alisdare@gmail.com

© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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