In Karen DeYoung's Aug. 10 news story, "Chile Asks Spain for Arbitration on Pinochet Case," the issue of Augusto Pinochet's extradition follows a too-common pattern of discussing the case in terms of "right" and "left." According to this discourse, the right wants Gen. Pinochet's release, and the left wants his trial carried out in Spanish courts.
If the Pinochet case is to be discussed seriously, we must begin with an obvious truth which transcends issues of "right" and "left." Gen. Pinochet is responsible for the murder, torture and disappearances of thousands of people, including some U.S. citizens. Should he be held accountable to the thousands of families he has destroyed in his own country and others? It is precisely because he granted himself immunity that he cannot be held accountable in his own country. This case sets a precedent for those of us who have had family members murdered under similar military regimes and have been paralyzed by state impunity. If Gen. Pinochet's case goes to the Spanish courts, it will not be a message from the "left" but rather a message from the world: Terror and torture carried out against humanity will not be tolerated by anyone, regardless of political ideology.
Torture, murder, disappearances and extrajudicial executions are too ugly and ubiquitous to fit convenient packages of "right" and "left." The real issues here are impunity and accountability, which are without geographic or political borders.
The writer is a member of Coalition Missing, a project of the Guatemalan Human Rights Committee, USA.