Pinochet, Round 2

Gen. Augusto Pinochet got half of what he wanted from Britain's highest court. Most of the charges that had been leveled at him by a Spanish magistrate were canceled. Those alleged acts of torture and conspiracy to torture occurred in the 1970s, before the International Convention Against Torture was signed by London in 1988. The court decided that Chile's former dictator couldn't be held accountable for them under British law.

But the jurists, in effect, left half a shackle on General Pinochet. They found that the initial arrest was legal, rejecting blanket assertions of diplomatic immunity. Extradition to Spain thus remains at least a partially open door.

The energetic judge who started the Pinochet legal saga, Spaniard Baltasar Garzn, is determined to pry it all the way open. He has sent British authorities 33 new charges, all of them related to acts that took place after 1988, in the waning years of Pinochet's rule.

It's now up to Home Secretary Jack Straw to decide whether to renew his earlier approval of the Spanish extradition request in light of the court's latest ruling. And in light, we presume, of the new charges brought against the Chilean strongman.

We won't prejudge the British deliberations. It's been clear for years, however, that Pinochet has a lot to answer for. He may well have stabilized his country, but at a horrible price in shattered lives.

No matter how the current legal controversy plays out, it should help solidify a growing international consensus that acts of horror by governments and rulers will not be quietly filed away and forgotten. Whether in a court of law, or the court of public opinion, those responsible will be held accountable.

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