|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, of course it is an important question. It is an important political question. I must stress to your Lordships that I do not act politically in this arena--nor should I; nor have any of my predecessors. I act as an independent legal officer. I make no decisions of the sort queried by the noble Lord. He wondered whether or not the Foreign Office or the Home Office might tip off someone coming into this country. But that would seem to be the very kind of collusion that he and the noble Lord, Lord Cope, deprecated earlier. I stress that my work is confined to the legal role which is placed by statute on the Attorney-General. I have nothing to do with whether or not people are tipped off, nor indeed whether people are arrested.
The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, used the phrase, "the unfortunate history". I do not think that history will regard this matter as unfortunate. I think the verdict of history will be that Jack Straw behaved immaculately well, and that although the legal proceedings were lengthy, they upheld something that matters: that, however powerful you are, and to whatever elevated status you have aspired, if you commit monstrous crimes the law will not be silent.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, surely the noble and learned Lord will accept that, notwithstanding the impeccable credentials of the Attorney-General and the integrity of the Home Secretary, the sight of General Pinochet returning to Chile today will not send a message that dictators will be brought to trial and will find no corner in which to hide. Does he agree that, since 1948 and the creation of the convention on genocide and torture, the practical problem has been that no individual country has been properly able to police these kinds of cases, and that this saga has again demonstrated our impotence when it comes to dealing with such matters? Will the noble and learned Lord therefore reflect for a moment on the need to create an international court that will deal with these matters and on the failure so far, not least of the American administration, to ratify the creation of an international court? Where do Her Majesty's Government now stand in that process?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I agree with the spirit of the noble Lord's remarks, as I so often do; however, I do not agree with his conclusion. I believe that those who, it is alleged, were monstrously treated, had their relatives taken away from them--or, in that agreeable phrase, whose relatives were disappeared--ought to have some comfort. They will have immediate disappointment--of course they will--and there is no solace I can offer them, except from the proposition, I repeat, that; however mighty you are, in the end the law will not remain silent. That is of no immediate consolation. I recognise that, I hope with a decent humility.
International law is developing very quickly in this area. My noble friend Lord Bassam pointed out that in the Queen's Speech we gave our undertaking to become a full party in the International Criminal Court. I do not think that anyone who has heard Robin Cook speak on this matter doubts his commitment. At present, there is a tribunal sitting in respect of allegations of atrocities in Rwanda, with convictions having been obtained. There is a tribunal on atrocities sitting in the former republic of Yugoslavia, with convictions having been obtained. Sanctions are available in the international criminal justice system. We have legal duties that do not depend on the politics of the moment. I know that the noble Lord will agree. I mentioned Article 7. Under those duties, if extradition fails, we have to consider prosecution. Assertion and allegation, statement of facts, are not the same as admissible evidence.
Perhaps I may bring one final point into the equation. If the rule of law matters, even disagreeable people, even guilty people, are entitled to benefit from it. It is possible that Senator Pinochet was guilty of these offences; he has not been tried. It is possible that he is not guilty of these offences, he has not been tried. But guilty or not guilty, if he is not fit to stand trial it is abusive of the legal process to make him stand trial.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General about the role of the CPS as agent for the Kingdom of Spain. Does he agree that it is important that the CPS acts only as the agent of the Kingdom of Spain and is not proactive as a prosecution authority? In that context, can the noble and learned Lord explain why the CPS did not confine itself simply to meeting representatives of Judge Garzon, but held meetings with Joan Garces, the political secretary of Salvador Allende? Why was that necessary?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not know. As I said, I disqualified myself even from looking at any papers. I may be the only person in this House who has not read the medical reports on Senator Pinochet because, however they might have come to me, I thought that it was not right to involve myself in them, having given the undertaking that I did to Senator Pinochet's solicitors.
I believe that the CPS acted rightly within its remit as agent for the Kingdom of Spain. That is a long-standing and well-known arrangement between sovereign jurisdictions and the CPS here. When it acts as a proactive prosecution authority--a phrase that has been used by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont--that is in a separate category, and I assure the House that wholly different lawyers dealt with those matters.
Lord Richard: My Lords, will my noble and learned friend confirm one point? Is it the case that, in relation to extradition proceedings, the evidence that it is necessary to produce for the purpose of those proceedings does not have to be admissible evidence in the sense that we would use the term if, say, a defendant were standing trial here? As I understand the position, there was not sufficient evidence available to the CPS for anyone to be tried here; however, there was sufficient for the purpose of the extradition proceedings. In that respect, therefore, the CPS behaved perfectly properly.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My noble friend is absolutely right. I do not think that any court that has examined this matter has come to a contrary conclusion. It was found that the extradition proceedings were correct; that there was no appropriate or relevant immunity for Senator Pinochet. Therefore, the whole conduct following the arrest has been upheld by the courts in our jurisdiction. However, my noble friend is quite right. That does not necessarily make the background material admissible, bearing in mind the rules of evidence that we have in our system.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, as one who presumes to think that both Law Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service acted with propriety in this case, arising out of a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, can consideration be given to the dual role of the CPS which may give rise to misunderstanding; namely, as agents for a foreign government and its traditional function as a prosecuting authority in this country?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that I always pay very careful attention to the observations of the noble and learned Lord. His suggestion may be an avenue usefully to be followed. Substitute arrangements would have to be made. The present arrangements are well known, but that does not necessarily mean that they are perfect in every respect. I shall certainly give thought to the suggestion, even if the conclusion is that the arrangements work perfectly well at the moment. There is a possibility of confusion, which was why earlier I took a moment or two to explain the difference between the nature of extradition proceedings and successful criminal prosecutions in this country.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I should like to put two questions which I preface with a comment. It seems to me that the result is: phew! We are off the hook. Senator Pinochet has now gone home and we do not have to offend more people than is absolutely
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Earl confuses two issues which I tried to keep separate. He asked--almost rhetorically--whether, if it had been decided a long time ago that Senator Pinochet could not be tried, he should have been discharged a long time ago. That is the confusion which I sought to illuminate earlier. When the material went to the Metropolitan Police on the date specified in the Statement the intention was to discover whether there was any admissible evidence for the purposes of a possible prosecution in this country. We have the jurisdiction and the obligation to consider a prosecution under Article 7(1) of the convention. That is one set of factual circumstances. That has nothing whatever to do with whether or not Senator Pinochet is fit to stand trial in Spain. They are completely separate matters. The disqualification for trial in Spain is the nature of the concluded medical evidence, whereas the disqualification for trial in this jurisdiction is that there is insufficient admissible evidence for a prosecution to be properly mounted. Those are wholly separate and distinct circumstances.
The question of whether when one is the lawyer or agent of a client one simply acts on the evidence is not really in point. If there is faulty documentation, then it is the duty of the lawyer to point out to the person whom he represents that it is faulty. But, if there were a faulty warrant, it would have been perfectly open to the lawyers representing Senator Pinochet (of whom there were many), in whose hands many days and weeks of court time were spent, to take that point. If they did take that point, it does not seem to have succeeded.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page