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Sunday, 30 December 2018

LA TERCERA Interview: Andy McEntee: “The credibility of Chile is at stake”

"Pinochetismo" resurgente

Andy McEntee, lawyer in the Pinochet arrest: “The credibility of Chile is at stake when its politicians aspire to return to the 1970’s”

By: Alejandra Jara @alejandrajaraj

Thursday 27 December 2018

LA TERCERA interview - original version (Spanish-language)

The former chairman of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom questions those who proclaim themselves “Pinochetistas” without considering Pinochet’s Human Rights violations. “It isn’t credible for a legislator in Congress to defend ‘Pinochetismo’ while not defending the Junta dictatorship model that was essential to it”, is his critique.

“It seems bizarre that present-day members of Congress should put [Augusto] Pinochet on a pedestal, as a role model (…) Pinochet, the Junta, and their technocrats were a disaster for the majority of Chileans and for the image of Chile internationally." From more than eleven thousand kilometres away, the Human Rights activist and ex-Chairman of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom, Andrew McEntee, reacts with surprise when he learns that in the past few days various parliamentarians and leaders of the ‘Chile Vamos’ coalition [of 4 right-wing parties: UDI, RN, PRI & Evópoli] laid claim to the image and name of the deceased Commander-in-Chief of the Army. This developed after the RN deputy in Congress, Camila Flores, declared herself a ‘Pinochetista’ during the National Council of the party on the 16th of December.

Camila Alejandra Flores Oporto.jpg
 Camila Flores, member of Congress for the RN (National Renewal) party, proclaimed "I am a 'Pinochetista'!", kicking off a similar outpouring among the far-right parties, that has taken hold across the national press and broadcast media, and social media.

McEntee, a lawyer, knew all about Pinochet and participated actively as a Human Rights defender during the dictatorship. He was an international observer in the 1988 Plebiscite and later had a key role in the arrest of the ex-General in October of 1998 in London.

It was exactly 20 years ago, the 11th of December 1998, when he watched the military man enter the Belmarsh court in London in a wheelchair, make his way to the prisoner’s dock accompanied by an armed escort, and “subjugate himself” to a judge “who began to read a list of crimes that included torture, taking of hostages and various crimes of conspiracy”, relates the lawyer. For this reason, today it seems contradictory to him for people to declare themselves ‘Pinochetista’, “without also endorsing the Pinochet regime’s core philosophy and machinery, and being prepared to roll it out again”, he maintains.

“It has taken 30 years to get this far out of the disaster of dictatorship. Chile’s credibly is at stake when its senior politicians appear to aspire to a return to the Chile of the 1970s”, affirms the Human Rights activist, adding that “Chilean citizens should not take lightly the claims of members of Congress who proclaim themselves ‘Pinochetista’. The plans, finances and true allegiances of such politicians should be the focus of close scrutiny by the media and other civil society institutions, as well as by the UN and other international human rights bodies”. 

RN and UDI parties against Pinochet

McEntee began this interview with La Tercera by recalling his role as an international observer during the 1988 Plebiscite. “At that time, many of the pro-regime politicians who supported the pro-Pinochet ‘Yes’ option were, in fact, fed-up with Pinochet and his inner circle blocking ‘regime modernisation’ - which for UDI and RN amounted to blocking each party[’s ‘new way of doing the same thing’]. I recall the situation before the Plebiscite, when UDI and RN were the political establishment’s competing ‘modernisers’, aiming to move Chile forward beyond the Junta form of government - but without changing the overall direction of government, nor undermining the gains of those still benefitting from the regime.”

5th of October 1988
With 56% of votes, the "NO" vote defeated Pinochet in the 1988 Plebiscite (referendum)

Back then, he assures, the UDI would be content “with keeping Pinochet as a useful figurehead outside the presidency, maybe in Congress or some other palace, but out of uniform (…) At the same time, RN clearly wanted Pinochet to go home and stay home, so that they could get on with a ‘modern’ or ’mano menos dura’ ('not as heavy-handed') roll-out of their still-familiar free-market philosophy”.

"Yes, buddy! There are more important things than freedom"
(mid-1980s cartoon by Rufino, in HOY magazine, Chile)

Regarding the stance taken by President Sebastián Piñera, McEntee queries that in spite of the head of state trying to distance himself from the figure of Pinochet, in 2018 he pardoned, for “humanitarian reasons”, the ex-colonel René Cardemil, who had only been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for the 1973 murder of six people, including an official of the IMF.

¿Could the military have a role in a future ‘Pinochetist’-style government?

“Is it possible for a member of Congress to separate their adhesion to ‘Pinochetism’ from a desire to implement the socio-economic programmes favoured by Pinochet, including their implementation through a pre-planned repressive machinery?”, McEntee wonders.

His answer is “no”. “Before the military coup there was no ‘Pinochetista’ socio-economic model, nor the inherent repressive machinery that would be required to implement it forcefully. When he ceased being President, his ‘Pinochetista’ socio-economic model ceased with him, as did its inherent repressive machinery. It is not credible for a legislator in Congress to defend ‘Pinochetismo’ while not defending the Junta dictatorship model that was essential to it”, says the lawyer, for whom the Human Rights violations were “permitted by sectors of the political right and the DC [centrist Christian Democratic Party]”, who all “kept silent”.

McEntee also asserts that there cannot be a ‘Pinochetist’ presidential candidate who is not also endorsing “the Pinochet regime’s core [philosophy and] machinery, and [being] prepared to roll it out again”, adding that, in such a case, all these elements are indivisible, and that the figure of the ex-General cannot be “understood” without the repressive apparatus.

Finally, the international lawyer sends a question to the Army and the police agencies: “I mean no disrespect to law enforcement and security professionals - indeed, I have worked collegially with such people in many countries during the past decades, all of us committed to strengthen local human rights laws and preventive mechanisms. I simply ask: Might the Chilean military and police be willing to have a role inside a future ‘Pinochetista’ style government? If so, how do they assess today the meaning of ‘Pinochetista’, and what it may demand from them when the time comes?”

Categorías: La Tercera PM

Etiquetas: DD.HH., La Tercera PM

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Prisoner Pinochet in the London court dock ('banquillo')

20 YEARS AGO, TODAY - Friday, 11th of December, 1998

On Friday 11th of December, 1998, the former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, sat in the back of a speeding police car driven by London's Metropolitan Police. Under arrest, and under armed escort, he was on his way to London's high-security Belmarsh Magistrates Court. 

Once in the court chamber itself, Pinochet sat in the dock, subjugated to English and international law, answering to an English judge, Magistrate Graham Parkinson.

I was there also, seated on a bench reserved for lawyers, only an arm's stretch from where Pinochet was sitting. So close that I could have reached back to touch his walking-stick. 

I began attempting the arrest of Pinochet during his first visit to the UK in 1991, and continued during his annual visits for the next seven and a half years. Finally it had happened. And now he was under arrest, in court, as Prisoner Pinochet.

Here is my story of how the scene unfolded that day...

  1. Belmarsh Court & Prison
  2. ‘Pinochet v Amnesty International’
  3. The Beautiful People (La Gente Linda)
  4. The London Picket (El Piquete de Londres)
  5. Armed Police Cordon, Corridors, Court 
  6. Prisoner Pinochet Rolls In
  7. Prisoner Pinochet In The Dock (En El Banquillo)
  8. Prisoner Pinochet Answers To The Magistrate
  9. ‘Unfit For Trial’, But I Wish To Perform Some Theatre
  10. Prisoner Pinochet Rolls Out, Wearing His Overcoat Over His Head

1. Belmarsh Court & Prison

Belmarsh Magistrates Court is situated in southeast London. The court is a modern but bunker-like building. It is attached by underground passage to its neighbour, the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. Both locations are designed to cater for the most dangerous prisoners, accused of serious crimes including armed robbery, murder and terrorism. 

I stroll through the main gates at Belmarsh. As previously instructed during a phone call with Sergeant Gordon of the Metropolitan Police, I head for the nearest police uniform and ask for a radio call to be put through to the nearby duty Inspector, who is expecting me and will arrange my safe passage into the court.

Police snipers are on the visible rooftops. Below, armed police in flak-jackets are visible from place to place. Dozens of unarmed officers perform routine crowd-control functions, and stand ready to take prisoners if necessary. I see a dozen or so police vans parked nearby, ready to accommodate prisoners if necessary.

I have arranged to be at the hearing, primarily because I want to be here, after seven and a half years of trying to bring Pinochet to account in London. In fact, Amnesty International is not even a party to this hearing, which is a ‘Directions’ hearing to make basic arrangements for the full extradition hearing some weeks later, that will arrange Pinochet’s transfer to Spain for trial.

2. ‘Pinochet v Amnesty International’

A couple of days ago, Pinochet as good as invited me to be at Belmarsh, by naming Amnesty International as a Respondent in his new petition to the highest court in the land, the House of Lords [later renamed the Supreme Court]. In their reply to Pinochet’s petition, their Lordships have consented to the 'special hearing' requested by him, that now should take place within a few weeks. 

In naming Amnesty as a Respondent, Pinochet automatically made Amnesty a full party to the future hearing. In case there is anything said or done at Belmarsh, relevant to Pinochet’s petition to their Lordships, I have to be here to observe and take note.

The 'special hearing' is to decide whether a judge at the earlier House of Lords hearing, Lord Hoffman, has too close a connection to Amnesty International (an ‘Intervenor’ at the earlier hearing whose lawyers had spoken in the court, in opposition to Pinochet’s team). 

If so, their Lordships could set aside their earlier 25th November decision involving Hoffman, that essentially decided Pinochet does not have immunity from extradition and prosecution. That original House of Lords hearing might even be cancelled, and have to be re-run with a different panel of judges. In the meantime, the Belmarsh extradition process goes ahead.

The media have labelled it either the ‘Hoffman’ hearing, or ‘Pinochet v Amnesty International’. Either way, I am entering the eye of the storm within the eye of the storm.

For my ‘special permit’ to enter the Belmarsh court, the court administration earlier referred me on to Belmarsh’s local police station, where all operational arrangements are based. As soon as I called, introducing myself as the Chairman of Amnesty looking for a seat, the duty officer, Sergeant Gordon, threw the doors open to me – “Amnesty International! Of course you have to be there!” My name would be on the duty Inspector’s list at Belmarsh Court the following day, with a second permit for a colleague, if required.

3. The Beautiful People (La Gente Linda)

Beginning inside the main gate, the access road to the Belmarsh courthouse is lined with hundreds of chanting demonstrators behind crowd-control barriers, chanting for their hero Pinochet, preparing their hero’s welcome.  This is not the first time that they have been flown from Chile to England by chartered flights, with a hierarchy and instructions, to show the television cameras how much Chile loves Pinochet. As before, they are in London only for a few days, paid, fed, watered, accommodated, and mostly free for tourism around central London (including their red London double-decker bus, open-topped for tourists, with a pro-Pinochet slogan on its side). Belmarsh is far from central London. 

They are chanting against the injustice of the English legal system that allows their hero to be arrested, and to be brought to this London court. I walk through these ‘beautiful people’, the ‘gente linda’ as they are known in Chile. Thanks to months of Chilean television and newspaper coverage, my face is known; but I go unrecognised.

Their placards carry full-colour photos of a be-suited, smiling, younger and ‘softer’ Pinochet than the one portrayed in our draft indictments that listed conspiracy to torture, murder and 'disappear' his opponents. Their hundreds of professionally type-set English-language placards probably have come with them from Chile, going by the spelling errors - “juistice for…”, etc. 

Their placards demand the release of Pinochet, or at least for him to be returned to Chile, a free man or an extradited prisoner, for the Chilean government to resolve his and his government’s plight. There are profanities on some of the hand-made placards, that are not for their hero’s soft eyes, but are against the harsh English court system. They are in the Spanish language because they are not for the police’s eyes either.

There is no doubting their command of the Spanish language, however, as they heap foul language and threats, in chorus, on arriving members of the Chilean community exiled to the UK - the regime’s victims, forced to walk their gauntlet, but unbowed. 

I stand opposite the placards, unrecognised, waiting for my colleague Geoffrey Bindman to arrive, and happily translate the text of some rude placards for the policeman escort by my side. “It’s no worse than policing a football crowd, really”, he reflects.  

I reply, “The difference between a football crowd and these people is that here you’ve got this group, who supported, or even took part in, dragging relatives of that group over there from their beds at night and torturing them to death or making them disappear. You shouldn’t have any doubts who the trouble-makers are!”

4. The London Picket (El Piquete de Londres)

Led by our escort, Geoffrey and I head along the access road that soon takes a right-turn in order to reach the main entrance of the building. Instead of simply turning right, first I go further on to the brow of a slight hill. There, isolated behind their own police cordon, are some fifty representatives of the Chilean exile community, organised as ‘the London Picket’, or ‘El Piquete de Londres’ as they are know to Chilean media. They wear the photos of their disappeared and murdered loved ones. They carry the scars of their own survival from secret detention centres and concentration camps. 

Normally the London Picket is at the very centre of the action, outside the courts, outside and inside Parliament, everywhere else, including outside Pinochet’s house in Wentworth every weekend. They have given themselves the task of attracting the television cameras and photojournalist lenses, to send messages to the world by word, face-paint, theatre, puppetry, and the like. Not least to articulate to the UK political and legal establishments that they also may be on trial - trial by media at least - if they are found wanting by supporting Pinochet’s escape from justice politically, judicially, morally or any other way.

Today, the London Picket appears to have been located off centre-stage by instruction of the police. They are located at the top of the incline, close to the rear corner of the building, beyond the point where the road turns towards the court,. They can see the main gate and the road up to the turning point, but not reach it if Pinochet drives through. They can see and hear Pinochet’s ‘beautiful people’, and counter-chant if they wish, but must not be involved in a direct confrontation with the beautiful people. They feel short-changed today, resulting in not a few complaints to the police, who merely request that they stay on the mound, within their corral. I encourage them to keep up their spirits and make sure they are heard, and then I head for the main entrance to the court.

In fact, it turned out that the first thing Pinochet saw and heard when his convoy drove into the Belmarsh compound was not the massed ranks of his own supporters. A short while after I left them, the police officers stationed with the Picket advised the ‘piqueteros' to turn around and look the other way downhill, to the rear entrance of the court building. Pinochet had arrived by the back gate and was being ushered from his green Ford Galaxy with an overcoat over his head. His arrival could only be observed by the police, the ‘piqueteros', and a few lucky journalists at the rear of the press pack. The ‘piqueteros’ chanted long and loud, “Asesino, Asesino, Asesino,…” (“Murderer, Murderer, Murderer, …”).

5. Armed Police Cordon, Corridors, Court

I walk back along the final stretch of driveway, that is lined with crowd-control barriers on both sides, enclosing hundreds of camera-toting television crews and photographers. We are led along the path towards the entrance to the court-building, and cleared through the security check-point at the doorway. 

Inside, the small reception area is yet another security check-point, this time with metal-detector and x-ray equipment of the type found at airports. Police, some armed, watch our every move. Waiting in line are a couple of journalists from The Independent and BBC. The mood is forbidding, as if to discourage talking unless spoken to, touching unless touched by an officer, movement unless told to move. We greet the journalists with a smile nevertheless, shaking hands and inadvertently mixing up our positions in the queue.

One at a time we are beckoned forward. No bags are to be taken inside, nor photographic nor recording equipment, nor mobile telephones, etc., but, yes, a notepad and pen are allowed. This is a rigorous security cordon sanitaire befitting the occasion. Officers wearing white gloves systematically search through every bag, pocket by pocket, corner by corner, fold by fold, wallet by wallet, spectacle case by spectacle case… A female journalist is instructed to remove an ankle-bracelet. This is going to take a while.

Finally we are led upstairs and then along a narrow corridor, past armed policemen at every corner and door, semi-automatic weapons at the ready. The journalists are siphoned off in a different direction. Our guide announces “Amnesty International” to a huddle of uniforms. “Are you lawyers?” asks the senior officer. “Yes.”  “Through here, then”. We are led through the “lawyers’ door” and into the court chamber.

We have entered by a door located along one of the flanks of the chamber. That flank is a wood-panelled wall, occupied only by a flak-jacketed armed police officer standing beside the door, and another armed officer at another door farther along the wall. At the left-hand end of the chamber is the still-vacant Magistrate's bench. In the corner between us and the bench is a podium, for witnesses to be examined and cross-examined; no witnesses would be called today, however.

At the opposite end of the chamber, directly facing the Magistrate's chair, is the light-wood panelled Dock where the prisoner would be expected to sit, when not standing to answer to the court. On either side of the dock are a few seats, today occupied by prisoner Pinochet's relatives and advisers, in a silent show of allegiance.

Belmarsh Court

The magistrate's seat is at the front of the court (top left).
The podium for witnesses is on the left of the photo.
The three pews for lawyers occupy the centre.
To the right of the pews are the seats for the media and the court sketch-artists.
The dock for the prisoner is behind the pews, just out of photo (bottom right corner) 

Belmarsh Court

The view from the public gallery above the dock area.
The public seated in the gallery cannot see the prisoner in the dock.
The gallery is sound-proofed, but the public can hear proceedings via speakers.

In-between the Dock and the Magistrate's bench, are three rows of lawyers' pews facing the bench. The front two pews already are occupied by the legal teams for Pinochet (led by Michael Caplan of Kingsley Napley, and Clive Nicholls QC) and for Spain (represented, as required by the judicial cooperation treaty, by the Crown Prosecution Service, led by James Lewis QC - but without any Spanish judge or prosecutor actually being present). The third row is occupied only by a plain-clothes policeman.

Along the opposite flank of the chamber from where I stand, decorating the length of the wall from the Magistrate's bench along past the Dock area, are seats for journalists. They are 38 in all, with two court sketch-artists, all seated shoulder-to-shoulder, barely whispering, utterly expectant. 

Our police escort invites us to find ourselves somewhere to sit amongst the three rows of lawyers’ pews that occupy the centre-floor in the chamber, facing the Magistrate's bench. We walk along the short walkway between the third row of pews and the Dock, to slot ourselves onto the third pew, at the middle. Immediately behind us is the walkway, and then the Dock, that the judge will be able to see by looking between the heads of Geoffrey and me.

A low buzz of conversation fills the expectant few minutes’ wait for Pinochet’s arrival. The correspondent from Spain's El País newspaper, Ernesto Ekaizer, crosses over from the journalists' benches to say hello, and ask if we have any new background information. As we talk, Pinochet’s lawyer quietly informs the legal benches that his client will be coming in on a wheel-chair. It sounds like a scene from an old movie - a media ploy, if not a downright play for the Magistrate’s sympathy. Ekaizer passes on this news in a Mexican Wave of whispers along the journalists’ benches.

There is no live video feed to the outside world, nor radio. No cameras of any kind are allowed, nor recording devices. Only pen and paper are allowed. There are strict rules for the two court sketch artists; they are not allowed to sketch in court, only later by memory, from descriptions they have written in words or symbols. The real ‘Public’, all sixteen of them approved, are locked in a sound-proofed gallery upstairs, from where they can see only the judge, and hear only through speakers relaying the sound from below. 

This is history in the making, but on the quiet. All is quiet, waiting, hushed chatter. He is out of sight, but not out of mind. We are waiting for Prisoner Pinochet to arrive.

6. Prisoner Pinochet Rolls In

A few minutes past two o’clock, in mid-conversation with Geoffrey, I interject, “Here he comes, behind to your left”, as the set of doors used by the lawyers swings open and a wheelchair glides through the portal, Pinochet astride, holding a walking-stick off the floor.

In Scotland years earlier, I had worked with elderly and disabled people, many in wheelchairs, including helping them mount and dismount, and ferrying them around. This man isn’t accustomed to sitting on a wheelchair, and is unsure where to put his walking-stick as he rolls along. All the signs are there of a show for the court. Pinochet sits on his wheelchair like a man sitting at a bus stop, staring straight ahead, his face expressionless, his body tense.

With his Chilean aide (Miguel Schweitzer, a former Chilean ambassador to London during the dictatorship, and then Pinochet's Foreign Minister) slowly propelling him forward, Pinochet rolls onwards towards the Dock. 

The wheelchair takes much of the attention, as intended. Out are the old dark sunglasses, dictator’s uniform and whispers to kill. In is the new look, of elderly victimhood, of physical disability, and unfitness-for-trial. It is a disgraceful scam, a choreography all the way from an old movie. Still, Pinochet really is a broken man, having to rely on charade to elicit pity from the judge, from the pens of the media, and from the world outside.

I watch as the wheelchair is rolled along the side of the court, past the three rows of benches for lawyers. His eyes glazed, Prisoner Pinochet looks into a distant nowhere, focused only on getting through this humiliation. The wheelchair is rolled behind our lawyers pews, into the aisle behind me, and stops directly behind me, so that now Pinochet has to look between the heads of Geoffrey and me to see the judge. There is no attempt to move to sit on the awaiting Dock seat. Prisoner Pinochet remains in the wheelchair, and it is clear that this is an attempt to pretend that he is not in the Dock - an attempt to manipulate, to sway the proceedings and also how the hearing is reported to the world. 

cartoon: Two agents of Pinochet's CNI secret police
"I have a doubt... When I go in front of the judge... Do I interrogate him? Or does he interrogate me?"   (by Rufino, in HOY magazine, Chile)

7. Prisoner Pinochet In The Dock (En El Banquillo)

The horror of The Dock, the prisoner’s seat of shame. From his wheelchair, Prisoner Pinochet casts his shadow onto the Dock furniture, as if to suggest that it is Prisoner Shadow who is in the Dock, not Prisoner Pinochet. 

That’s not the way that the law works. Whether in the seat provided by the court or the one he has brought with him, the legal position is clear… Prisoner Pinochet is in the Dock, until the judge allows him to be taken away.

Friday, 11th of December, 1998

Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in the dock at Belmarsh Court

Pinochet is now technically ‘in the dock’, with me and Geoffrey the first human contact in his direct line of sight. And he is no more than a few feet away. I could almost stretch over to touch him, or at least to swipe the walking-stick out of his right hand. At his left-hand stands Schweitzer. At his right-hand sits a Court Interpreter, a middle-aged slightly-built Spaniard, dressed in a grey suit and with a neat burgundy-coloured outdoor scarf still dangling from his neck.

I angle my body to have a good look at Pinochet over my left shoulder. It seems almost rude to do so, but it is absolutely the right time to look straight at him, tracing him up and down from face to toe, and to the left and right from shoulder to shoulder and shoe to shoe.

Pinochet sits masterfully on his wheeled throne, the palm of his right hand resting on the shiny metal handle of his dark-wood walking-stick, balancing it on its trim rubber tip. He is dressed comfortably in a light brown woollen jacket (almost Cuban in appearance, I thought), with a cream-coloured shirt and matching tie. He also wears dark tan outdoor brogues, neatly laced, polished but not militarily so, and clearly broken-in; obviously this man is accustomed to walking.

Prisoner Pinochet stares ahead and slightly downwards, as if oblivious to anything beyond his reach, and remains that way throughout the hearing except when speaking through his interpreter.

8. Prisoner Pinochet Answers To The Magistrate

Magistrate Parkinson enters, and the Court is called to order. All stand, except Pinochet. As the Magistrate sits down, Pinochet’s lawyer, the barrister Clive Nicholls, QC, remains standing to address the Magistrate. Mr Nicholls asks the Magistrate to authorize “Senator Pinochet” to remain seated throughout the proceedings, for humanitarian reasons. The Magistrate has seen the request coming – probably he had been made aware of the wheelchair before Pinochet entered the Courtroom, just as we had. Rather unfussily, he agrees to the request, with an air of little concern either way.

Magistrate Parkinson begins to make some preliminary statements, but he stalls in response to the sound of muffled shouting from the sound-proofed public gallery above. The loud-speaker system in the gallery has gone silent, cutting off the sound from the Court below. Sixteen observers are in the gallery – the eight selected by the London Picket, separated by the police from the eight selected by Pinochet’s team. 

Magistrate Parkinson adjourns the hearing until the speakers are working again. Without the speakers, the observers in the gallery have no possibility of hearing anything from the Court below - this is all the more problematic in Belmarsh, because the gallery is positioned right above the Dock, angled to allow a view of most of the Court, but not a view of the Dock itself.

The hearing resumes within minutes, and the Clerk of the Court asks the Prisoner to identify himself. The procedure, although undoubtedly rehearsed for and by Pinochet earlier, is conveyed by the interpreter.

Prisoner Pinochet needs no time to think about his response. He begins slowly:
“Soy Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Fui Comandante en Jefe del Ejército de Chile, Presidente de la República, Benemérito del Ejército, y Senador Vitalicio” 
[“I am Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. I was Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army, President of the Republic, Emeritus of the Army, and Senator for Life”].

It is a long list of former and current titles. Obviously it has been practiced beforehand, but it is still vintage Pinochet, with no allowances for the occasion – in his ‘Godfather’ movie manner, his words are not quite spoken, yet not quite whispered, causing the interpreter to lean sideways on his chair towards him, straining to hear the long list of high offices previously occupied by the Prisoner. Then silence.

The interpreter remains momentarily silent and motionless, then suddenly embarrassed and apologetic. He looks towards the Magistrate and gulps, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear…” Oh, dear. Nobody had thought to give the interpreter a written list of the titles that Pinochet was going to announce.

Magistrate Parkinson interjects politely, “I do apologise, Senator Pinochet.  Please repeat…”  
“Soy Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Soy Comandante en Jefe del Ejército de Chile…” 
“Soy”!? - meaning “I am”, rather than “Fui”, meaning “I was”. A slip of the tongue.  Pinochet corrects himself:
“…Fui Comandante en Jefe del Ejército de Chile, Presidente de la República, Capitán General de la Nación [a title not mentioned a minute earlier, and ‘Emeritus of the Army’ has been dropped], y Senador Vitalicio.”

For me, this is Pinochet’s point of no return. Finally he is under arrest and in a courtroom, in the Dock, facing criminal proceedings for serious and mass human rights violations, and by his own words has subjected himself to the jurisdiction of the Court as Prisoner Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. 

And not a news camera in sight! I was so pleased, but still felt obliged to remain calm and professional. The El País correspondent later told me that I “looked like a little boy who had been given a big bag of candies”.

The Magistrate thanks Pinochet, before going on to read his own list, namely the offences the Prisoner is charged with, as authorised by the Home Secretary:
“…torture, conspiracy to torture, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, taking of hostages, and conspiracy to take hostages.”

He goes on to point out that the purpose of this particular hearing is to fix the date for the full extradition hearing.

There follows a brief comment from James Lewis QC of the Crown Prosecution Service, acting on behalf of Spain. His comment is simply official notice to the Court that Pinochet has petitioned the House of Lords to set aside its judgment of 25th November, as well as having announced a High Court challenge against the Home Secretary’s 9th December ‘authority to proceed’ with the extradition process. 

Therefore Mr Lewis doubts the value of fixing a date for the next extradition hearing, at least until the outcome of the High Court and House of Lords proceedings is known. Pinochet’s lawyer agrees.

No date will be fixed today, decides the Magistrate. 

Following a brief consultation around each party’s availability during January 1999, the date of 18th of January is settled upon for a continuation of this Directions hearing. The next hearing will be at Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London. As it will be merely for the purpose of fine-tuning the arrangements for the full hearing that will be held at a later date, prisoner Pinochet need not attend on the 18th of January, rules Magistrate Parkinson.

Next, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clive Nicholls QC, addresses the Magistrate on the matter of Pinochet’s bail conditions. Effectively, prisoner Pinochet is under house-arrest at Wentworth, on the outskirts of London, and only allowed to leave the building in order to attend Court when ordered to do so. Variation of bail conditions is requested, to allow Pinochet to “exercise” in the garden of the house. The Magistrate agrees to this variation of bail. For the Court record, the Magistrate stipulates that:
“Senator Pinochet should remain at the notified address, except for the purpose of attending Court when ordered to do so, and he should be guarded at all times by officers of the Metropolitan Police, or other English police force. He is permitted to exercise in the garden on a periodic basis, with the permission of the senior police officer on duty - permission may be withheld on grounds of security or other operational reasons.”

So ends the hearing – at least, as far as the law requires. Now it is time for the theatre.

9. ‘Unfit For Trial’, But I Wish To Perform Some Theatre

As the Magistrate readies himself to stand and adjourn the hearing, Pinochet's lawyer again stands to address the Court. Mr Nicholls announces that, as this is the first time that “Senator Pinochet” has appeared before an English court, he would like to address the Court “with Your permission.”

Matter-of-factly, almost vaguely, Magistrate Parkinson agrees to the request.

Following a discreet nod from Mr Nicholls, Pinochet reaches into his jacket’s inside-left pocket, and carefully removes a couple of sheets of folded paper. Opening them out, he begins to read in Spanish, slowly and audibly, theatrically playing to the gallery, and pausing from time to time for the interpreter to do his work:
“With due respect Your Honour, I do not recognize the jurisdiction of any other Court outside of my country to judge me over all the lies of the Spanish ‘gentlemen’”.

This is not a mentally-unfit man. There is no falter, nor tremble, only the affectation of an aloof disdain for the proceedings. He knows better, though, that he cannot in fact be aloof – he is The Prisoner, after all - but he has set a roomful of journalists scribbling furiously.

Manipulating the news agenda is so obviously the point of it in the first place. This is raw meat for the hungry news-hounds who are scoffing it up, now relieved to have something non-technical to report - something declared from Pinochet’s mouth, albeit a defiant oratory that is contrary to the prisoner they have just witnessed subjugating himself to the Court.

“Is that all?” the Magistrate asks.

“That is all that I wish to say”, replies Pinochet through his interpreter.

Pinochet’s lawyer rises to his feet, for a rearguard action. “I wish to clarify that the Senator has not meant to be disrespectful to this Court”, says Mr Nicholls helpfully.

“I didn’t take it that way”, says Magistrate Parkinson.

Earnestly respectful towards the Magistrate on behalf of his client, Mr Nicholls follows-through with, “The Senator recognizes the jurisdiction of THIS Court…”.

“I hear what you say,” replies the Magistrate, “but I must conduct these proceedings in accordance with the law on Extradition that is in force in England.”

10. Prisoner Pinochet Rolls Out, Wearing His Overcoat Over His Head

The hearing has lasted twenty-seven minutes - of infamy. Now the Magistrate rises, and so the Court rises, apart from Pinochet, who remains seated, almost slumped in relaxation now that it is all over bar the leaving. He turns to look up at Schweitzer, with a slight grin of relief, looking for feedback about how it has gone. Poker-faced, Schweitzer assures him that it has gone fine. 

Pinochet continues smiling, and, with more agitation now, shakes hands with the family members and advisers who are closing-in around him, leaning over to embrace him. 

Then, before anyone is allowed to leave the Court chamber, Pinochet again is under the control of armed police, and being wheeled out by Schweitzer. After a short distance, Pinochet enters the waiting police car the same way he had exited it - via the back-door of the Court, with an overcoat over his head, like a common criminal, forced to listen to his London Picket accusers chanting from nearby, “Asesino, Asesino, Asesino…”

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

[English trans.] 'La Tercera' - Andy McEntee, the lawyer who was key to the arrest of Pinochet

20th anniversary of Pinochet's arrest in London, 16th October 1998

Versión en español: 

English version, below:

[English, longer version: ]

actor Peter Capaldi as human rights lawyer Andy McEntee
"Pinochet In Suburbia" [UK title] / "Pinochet's Last Stand" [USA title]
(BBC &; HBO, 2006)
(duration: 0 mins, 49 secs)

Andy McEntee, the lawyer who was key to the arrest of Pinochet: “Frei had no interest in challenging the regime”

By: Alejandra Jara      |      16 October 2018

Andy McEntee, Chairman of Amnesty International UK
(High Court, London, 27 January 2000)

The lawyer and chairman of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom in 1998 tells La Tercera how in only five days the previously unthinkable arrest of Augusto Pinochet occurred in London, for the first time putting the ex-general in the dock, accused of crimes against humanity. 

There is an episode that marked the life and career of the renowned Human Rights lawyer Andrew McEntee: it occurred on the 11th of December 1998, and is intimately related to the history of the Chilean transition. That day McEntee -at the time Chairman of Amnesty International UK- was a witness to the moment when Augusto Pinochet Ugarte for the first time came face to face with the forces of justice in Belmarsh Court, south London, where he was committed for trial in the extradition proceedings against him.

“There I was, sitting no more than two metres from Augusto Pinochet in the dock, on one of the benches reserved for lawyers. I watched him come into the court chamber on a wheelchair, make his way to the dock under armed escort, identify himself to the judge, and so subjugate himself to a judge who then began to read out the list of crimes that included torture, taking of hostages, and various crimes of conspiracy”, explains McEntee to La Tercera PM in perfect Spanish.

11th of December 1998

Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in the dock at Belmarsh Court

For McEntee it was a “historic” day, because for the first time Pinochet was seated in the dock as an accused, having been arrested two months earlier in a London clinic, where he was recovering from surgery. An arrest that took place on 16th October of 1998 and in which the Human Rights activist played a key role, and that signified a small victory after more than a decade working to shed light on the Human Rights crimes committed in Chile.

~ In 1998 you were Chairman of Amnesty International UK. What was your opinion of the Chilean transition?

I had a good understanding of Chile’s so-called ‘transition’ to democracy, or, as I saw it, the ‘continuation’ that the regime was trying to assure through: a 1980 Constitution that still lacked the reforms necessary for a democratic system; an unreformable Congress that guaranteed a majority number of seats favouring ‘continuation’; a weak civilian court system, led by timid judges; impunity for crimes against humanity - including the continuing silence of state institutions about the fate and whereabouts of the ‘disappeared’; and an Army that remained under the command of General Pinochet until March of 1998 - without neglecting to mention that Pinochet appointed his own successor as Army commander in 1998, outside of the control of the civilian President of Chile. These are just a few of the available headlines for reflecting the problems of the ‘transition’ before the arrest of Pinochet in London.

In 1998 it was well known that former President Aylwin and incumbent President Frei had benefited plenty from Pinochet’s military coup, that both had applauded in 1973. Comfortable at finally having become Presidents, both of their governments proceeded with timidity in the face of the ‘continuity’ of the regime - a ‘state within the state’ that was underpinned by the Army and other regime actors, in Congress and other places.

This could be seen by the way that Frei’s government responded after Pinochet’s arrest. Chile protested to Spain and the UK, asserting to the world that Pinochet was a victim, because he had a ‘diplomatic passport’ - but without any evidence, and without any active diplomatic function - that guaranteed him immunity during his ‘special mission’ to London. And all while neither the Chilean embassy in London, nor the UK Foreign Office, knew anything about Pinochet’s visit, effectively a private journey. Also, Frei’s government came across as absurd by shouting to all the world that Pinochet’s arrest could endanger the road to democracy in Chile due to his absence.

~ How did you know that Pinochet was visiting London to undergo surgery?

Beginning with Pinochet’s first visit to England in 1991, I always received phone calls to tell me that Pinochet was about to leave Chile, or had arrived already in London, repeating in 1994, 1995 and 1997. Pinochet finished being head of the Army in March 1998, so his visit to Europe in September for surgery was a ‘private’ visit.

Once it was confirmed that Pinochet was in London for a medical procedure, his exact location was confirmed by the Chilean community in London, on the morning of 9th October. It was presumed that he would be hiding behind a false name, but eventually ‘Ugarte’ was identified at the London Clinic.

My priority was to prepare the legal case, documents and procedures, and then line up a team of British lawyers willing to spend time assisting me and Amnesty, without payment of course. If a judge was willing to issue an order for the arrest of Pinochet, then the police would take action immediately, without the need for me or anyone else to tell them where to find him. All the stuff about finding him, getting him on camera, protesting outside his window, is very important in a democratic society, but was largely irrelevant for my work. Mostly I needed to know that this time he would not be flying out of England before the courts and police could be mobilised. 

~ In the book “Pinochet, 503 days trapped in London”, by Chilean journalist Mónica Pérez, it is revealed that you advised the Spanish lawyer Joan Garcés how to get going the measures that could permit the capture of Pinochet. What do you remember about your conversation?

On Saturday 10th October 1998, I learned that Pinochet currently was in the London Clinic. It was through a phone call from Vicente Alegría, one of the members of the Chilean Human Rights Commission of London. At the same time, Jimmy Bell of the Commission was calling to inform Joan Garcés in Madrid, the lawyer representing many Chilean victims, who was in touch with the two judges investigating Pinochet in separate complaints - judges Manuel García-Castellón and Baltasar Garzón. Vicente and Jimmy recommended that I call Joan Garcés to discuss the case, as Garcés had been waiting for news of something happening in London; specifically hoping for news of an arrest.

I called Joan Garcés at home, while he was quietly enjoying a Spanish long-weekend; the coming Monday would be a public holiday in Spain, so the courts and law firms would be closed, at a time when the pace of legal intervention should be speeding up. We spoke in Spanish and English, jumping back and forth in each's mother tongue. I remember him asking me, "Can you have Pinochet arrested in London, by a judge, for genocide?” My short answer was “No.”  In our conversation we discussed the relevant British laws and procedures, principally in terms of what I had tried already, what had worked and what had not worked, and why or why not.

After a while, our conversation drew to a close. Joan said he would go consult with colleagues about our discussion. On the following day, Sunday mid-afternoon, Joan called me at home. He had some questions arising from our previous discussion, and wanted to push the genocide issue again. So we had another long conversation about genocide, torture, judges’ powers, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997. Eventually we bade farewell again, satisfied with the scope and direction of our discussions. Joan’s final words to me were, "Andy, we're going to do what we can. We're working on it."

~ What was your opinion of the measures undertaken by the government of President Eduardo Frei to bring Pinochet back to Chile?

From the beginning it was clear that the efforts of the Chilean government to extradite Pinochet from London were a politico-theatrical manoeuvre, not desiring his return at all, but intended to placate Pinochet’s supporters. Chile’s English lawyer had merely turned up in the London court to argue that Chile had the superior right to extradite, not Spain, but without Chile actually having filed for extradition. It was not a serious attempt to secure Pinochet’s transfer to Santiago under arrest, as a prisoner. 

There was no way that Chile could uphold the international requirements for extradition of Pinochet. From the moment that Pinochet landed in Santiago, the military would intervene over the head of the civil justice system. The Chilean court system was still weak in 1998, almost colonial, not only because most of the senior judges had been appointed during the Pinochet regime, but also they knew everything about the human rights abuses, and were too scared to investigate (He clarifies that judge René García Villegas was an exception).

I had met Eduardo Frei around ten years earlier, during his visit to London organised by the British Foreign Office. Frei came to my office for a discussion about the current role of his party, the DC, and his own vision for Chile. Andrés Allamand, of RN, also visited my office, and was a ball of fire and energy. Also, Roberto Lagos. But Frei was disinterested, detached, with little to say, seeming to confirm that he was a mere figurehead underpinned by his father's name, and with no interest in challenging the regime. By 1998, I could see that Frei, now President, had not changed much. Nobody in London believed that the Frei government's so-called extradition request was genuine.

~ What was the impact on Pinochet’s image of his arrest in London?

It is certain that Pinochet lost the battle for control of how he will be portrayed in Chile's history books. I knew it as soon as the High Court in London began reading out its list of hundreds of cases of torture, murder and enforced disappearance of men, women and children that he was responsible for. I saw that, by the time of his return to Chile in 2000, even the official school history textbook had been rewritten in his absence. Already children were learning about his responsibility for these crimes. 

I also recall the absurd theatre of a powerful Chilean general trying to escape a meeting with an ordinary London judge by riding a wheelchair into the courtroom attached to Belmarsh Prison, and pleading to be allowed to go home after ordering his doctor to tell the judge that he is unwell and has lost his memory.

~ Pinochet finally returned to Chile and was never arrested for his connection to crimes against humanity.

It is regrettable that Chile was not strong enough actually to prosecute Pinochet and ALL of his collaborators for their crimes against humanity, and their embezzlement of millions of dollars into overseas bank accounts. Still, I note the large number of people who by now have been found guilty and sent to prison, even if usually for too few years. 

An important part of the justice process is to establish the truth. The truth was widely known in Chile and internationally even before his arrest in London, even though it was being denied by Pinochet supporters in Chile. 

By the time of Pinochet’s return to Chile he had suffered a string of defeats and humiliations, mostly brought about by his own bad judgment. For example, his bad judgment in ignoring the advice of his London lawyers year after year after 1991, believing he was above the law of civilised nations, until he visited London once too often. 

By the time of Pinochet’s return to Chile in March 2000, the hundreds of human rights complaints filed in Chilean courts were well established. But of course the courts, the laws, the Constitution continued to be weak, and he continued to claim immunity, and ill-health so unfit for trial.

~ 45 years after the military coup, the figure of Pinochet continues to provoke divisions in Chilean society. What does the country need in order to bring about reconciliation?

It was bad luck for Roberto Lagos that Pinochet returned to Santiago several days before Roberto assumed the presidency. But it was good that a momentum for change had set in already, that some welcome changes had indeed happened, and that President Lagos could bring about more reforms to the Constitution. 

In 2018 I still receive the regular bulletins of FASIC that inform about human rights cases in Chile’s courts. In spite of many prosecutions and imprisonments, clearly the situation remains mixed and unstable. For example, the 2018 decision of three judges of the Supreme Court to release five regime criminals responsible for crimes against humanity at Punta Peuco, including the disappearance of Dr. Eduardo Gonzalez Galeno. 

And of course President Piñera in 2018 displayed no shame in pardoning Col. René Cardemil, who murdered six citizens but received only a ten-year sentence. 

The Pinochet legacy has to be rejected by the democratic civilian government, not embraced by it, and the agents and criminal methods of Pinochet have to remain marginalised by state institutions and leaders, not embraced by the Supreme Court and the President. 

The lawyer and human rights activist closes the interview with slogans in Spanish: “No + porque somos +” [“No More, Because We Are More!”], and “¡Verdad Y Justicia!” ["Truth And Justice!"] adding. "…even in 2018... maybe, but maybe not yet."