Nobody is above the law

Phillipe Sands, The Guardian, October 16:

On October 16 1998, a magistrate signed a warrant for the arrest of Senator Augusto Pinochet and changed the course of history. The former Chilean head of state was arrested a few hours later, at the request of a Spanish prosecutor who charged him with a raft of international crimes, some dating back to the early 1970s. Over the next 18 months, one dramatic development followed another. The House of Lords rendered three landmark judgments in the space of five months; home secretary Jack Straw defied expectations by giving a green light to the continuation of proceedings that could lead to Pinochet’s removal to Madrid; Pinochet made a dramatic appearance in the dock at Belmarsh magistrate’s court; and eventually Straw decided that Pinochet was too unhealthy to stand trial and he was returned to Chile in April 2000. For the rest of his life he was dogged by legal proceedings…

The legacy of the arrest warrant signed in Hampstead 10 years today, is the Pinochet principle, that no one is above the law. It may one day come to haunt the very people who sought to set it aside. If, that is, they ever dare to set foot outside the United States.