And After Pinochet?
By Jesse Helms
Thursday, December 10, 1998; Page A31
In July, during the Rome Conference to establish an International Criminal
Court, I warned that such a court would be arbitrary and contemptuous of
national judicial processes and would trample the sovereignty of democratic
The delegates and "human rights" activists in Rome scoffed at my concerns.
The new system of international justice, they promised, would never allow a
rogue prosecutor, answerable to no government or institution, to interfere
with the national reconciliation process of a stable democracy with a
functioning legal system. Only dictatorships would be affected.
Well, follow their deeds, not their words. The treatment of former Chilean
president Augusto Pinochet has confirmed my every warning. Today a
rogue Spanish judge is using "international law" to trample Chilean
sovereignty and overrule Chile's functioning judiciary, its democratically
elected government and the decision of its people to choose national
reconciliation over revenge. And the advocates of the International Criminal
Court are cheering him along.
Amnesty International USA President William Shulz fired off a letter to
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week stating that Amnesty was
"deeply concerned about statements you made in which you imply that the
decision whether or not to extradite Pinochet should be left to the Chilean
people." (Heaven forfend!) "Your statement," he continues, "is akin to stating
that . . . Pinochet should not be extradited to Spain." In other words,
Amnesty acknowledges that the Chilean people and their elected leaders
oppose Pinochet's extradition. It just doesn't care. The Pinochet case should
sound alarm bells for citizens of every democratic nation. It puts the integrity
of our judicial systems and right to self-government in danger.
Much has been said of human rights abuses during the Pinochet era. I do
condone abuses by anyone. But the majority of Chileans will tell you that the
1973 coup d'etat led by Pinochet rescued their country from ruinous
anarchy. His action stopped Chile's transformation into a Cuban-style
communist state and the spread of Marxist revolution across Latin America.
And what is beyond dispute is that in 1988 Pinochet voluntarily submitted
rule to a national plebiscite, and then respected the results of that popular
vote by stepping down and handing power to a democratically elected
civilian president. He left Chile a free, thriving, prosperous, democratic
The Chilean people took stock of Pinochet's legacy -- both the successes
and excesses of his regime -- and made a conscious decision to move on.
Some may disagree with this, but it was a decision for the Chilean people
alone to make. Now comes Baltasar Garzon, who has arbitrarily decided he
will overrule their decision. Okay, if overruling Chile's national reconciliation
is acceptable, how about South Africa? The Truth and Reconciliation
Commission just declared that the African National Congress committed
gross violations of human rights, including torture, assassination and
summary execution of hundreds of political opponents. ANC leaders all
received amnesty. Should some foreign judge now have the power to
overrule that decision and force them to stand trial?
The new system of global "justice" being created here is arbitrary and
capricious. The same day that Pinochet was arrested in London, Spain's
prime minister was clinking glasses with Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American
summit. Yet when Cuban exiles petitioned Garzon's court to begin similar
proceedings against Castro, he contemptuously dismissed their case.
If Castro goes free, how about Gorbachev? Under his leadership, the Soviet
Union committed genocidal acts, war crimes and crimes against humanity in
Afghanistan, and sent KGB death squads into Latvia and Lithuania. Should
Gorbachev be arrested on his next speaking tour?
Jiang Zemin travels freely between the capitals of Europe. Why not arrest
him and prosecute him for the thousands he murdered in Tiananmen Square?
Why not arrest Yasser Arafat for acts of terrorism he ordered?
The point is this: Who decides who stands trial and who goes free in this
brave new world of "global justice"? Some self-appointed Spanish judge?
Some foreign prosecutor in an International Criminal Court? Or the free
peoples of sovereign democratic nations?
Garzon and his allies counter that they are putting dictators on notice
justice now reaches across borders. Dictators will be put on notice, all right.
And the lesson will be: Never step down -- you'd be a fool to give up power,
as Pinochet did. Fight until the last man.
I would gladly trade Fidel Castro a comfortable exile in Spain for his
to step down and allow Cubans to live in freedom. But if Garzon succeeds,
there will be no more "peaceful transitions to democracy." If dictators cannot
be offered amnesty or safety in exile, they will never hand power to
democratic movements. The incentive will be for greater repression, not
This is the world crusaders for an International Criminal Court are
unwittingly creating. The United States must actively oppose it.
The writer is a Republican senator from North Carolina and chairman of
Foreign Relations Committee.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company