Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Pinochet's Last Stand" with Derek Jacobi and Peter Capaldi

The drama of the attempt to extradite former General Pinochet from England to Spain to face trial is a well known story. But the behind the scenes manuevering that took place to cheat Justice is not often understood. That's what makes this film so powerful. It underscores the vulnerability of the Rights of Individuals against tyranny. But at the same time it sets the stage for future accountability.

Between 1973 and 1990, General Pinochet had authorized the kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of tens of thousands of people, some of whom were not Chilean citizens. In 1998 the General visited Britain for a medical procedure under the assumed protection of ally Margaret Thatcher. At the same time a Chilean activists group, operating with Amnesty International and other groups, were jointly able to bring the General to trial under the Extradition Laws between Spain and Great Britain. The General was placed under arrest immediately after coming out of surgery. He would spend the next 500 days under house arrest fighting the Extradition. Eventually he would prevail and be sent home to Chile.

During the time of the General's house arrest a massive publicity campaign is mounted by the relatives and friends of his victims. At the same time another movement launched by his longtime ally, Margaret Thatcher, takes hold. While one movement calls for his release, the other demands his Extradition. That the pro- Pinochet demonstrations were masterminded by Magaret Thatcher, a "self proclaimed" supporter of Human Rights, is very telling.

The script has some added characters who never existed, and some of the details have been changed around to suit the story, but the message is loud and clear. The world is not willing to tolerate dictators anymore. International Law exists and can be enforced. In the end, due to a loophole in the law concerning the dates in which the crimes were committed, justice was denied, but the real lesson is that justice was heard, and that bell cannot be unrung.

Tightly directed and engrossing with very commendable performances by all, this docu-drama was first aired on HBO in 2008. That's only two years ago, so I must be catching up!

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