Hello Blog. Fascinating article in this week’s Economist (with whom I have had a subscription for close to 20 years now) about the emerging international accountability for leaders for crimes against humanity. It mentions Alberto Fujimori, former Peruvian dictator and refugee in Japan, in passing. I have written at length about this creep in the past. See
http://www.debito.org/handout.html (do a word search for “Fujimori” on the page)
Why do I have it in for Fujimori? Because after he became a source of pride for Japanese for reaching an overseas presidency as Yamato diaspora, the GOJ gave him a safe haven when he defected to Japan in 2000 (faxing his resignation from a Tokyo hotel room!) by instantly declaring him a Japanese citizen. Thus immune from Interpol arrest warrants and Peru’s demands for extradition for trial on murder charges, he lived for years not only the life of a free man, but even as an elite in Japan (he reputedly used Ishihara Shintaro’s beach house, and had an apartment in the same complex as Dave Spector). Fujimori thus defied all conventions dealt the non-Yamatoites, who have to go through regular procedures for refugee or citizenship status (which take years, if ever granted at all).
After being reissued a Peruvian passport (in violation of Japan’s laws against dual nationality), the fool in November 2005 then re-defected back to Chile in a private jet (where one Wide Show reported that he wrote down his citizenship on Chilean Customs forms as “Peruvian”) to declare his candidacy for the April 2006 Peruvian election. He was promptly arrested by Chilean authorities. The Japanese press gave Fujimori some regular pro-Yamato coverage, until rumors surfaced that his newfound young wife, a “hotel magnate” in Peru running in his place, was actually a Zainichi Korean with underworld connections. Then they clammed up completely when he lost the election quite soundly.
(No article on the JT site on Fujimori’s defeat, tellingly.)
The Economist, as I said, mentions Fujimori in passing–that Chile’s Supreme Court is considering Peru’s extradition request. Lumping him in with dictators and international crooks in this article is apt. Let’s hope he doesn’t get away with it. His crony Vladimiro Montesinos was snagged overseas several years ago with help from the US government, and is currently doing time in Peru.
Japan, in contrast, clearly “protects its own” no matter what–especially if the crook has friends in high places. Eyes on the story. Debito in Sapporo
Ending impunity: Pinochet’s involuntary legacy
Dec 13th 2006
From The Economist print edition
MUCH of the commentary after the death of General Augusto Pinochet lamented that he had not been brought to justice for his crimes. Yet that is to miss the most important point. His arrest in London in 1998, and the House of Lords’ subsequent approval of his extradition to Spain on torture charges, marked a watershed in international law. For the first time, a national court had ruled that there could be no immunity for a head of state, serving or retired, for the very worst crimes, even when claimed to be part of his official functions. The fact that the elderly and supposedly ailing general was not in the end extradited did not matter. Thereafter no tyrant could consider himself safe from charges of crimes against humanity.
Until the Pinochet ruling, most had managed to avoid being brought to account. A few, like Mussolini, were shot without legal niceties. Others, like Hitler, took their own lives. Many, including Stalin, Mao Zedong, Franco, Haiti’s “Papa Doc” Duvalier and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, died in office. Those who were deposed could count on a comfortable exile, like Uganda’s Idi Amin, who died in Saudi Arabia; Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam, exiled since 1991 in Zimbabwe; and Haiti’s Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who has lived in France for the past 20 years.
That is now changing in ways once seen as inconceivable. In May 1999 Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s president, became the first serving head of state since the second world war to be charged with war crimes. He died of a heart attack in The Hague in March, shortly before the end of his trial. Indicted in 2003, Charles Taylor, Liberia’s president, was caught in March and handed over to Sierra Leone’s Special Court (sitting in The Hague). Last month Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s former dictator, was sentenced to death after being convicted of war crimes by a special Iraqi court. This week, Mr Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in absentia.
In Latin America, too, the climate has changed. Last month Juan María Bordaberry, a former Uruguayan dictator, was arrested for the murder of opposition leaders in 1976. Meanwhile, a Mexican court ordered the arrest of a former president, Luis Echeverría, for the massacre of student protesters in 1968. Brazil has just opened its first investigation of past abuses—against the head of São Paulo’s secret police under its 1964-85 dictatorship. The head of Argentina’s former military junta, Jorge Videla, may also soon be in the dock after a 1990 presidential pardon was overturned.
Chile’s Supreme Court is due to rule soon on Peru’s request for the extradition of its former president, Alberto Fujimori, on charges of brutality and corruption. General Pinochet himself had just been put under house arrest—for the fourth time—on charges of torture, kidnapping and murder. Three dozen of his generals have been sentenced or face charges.
Not all of this was the direct result of the House of Lords’ ruling. The end of the cold war had already brought a new focus on human rights. Ad hoc war-crimes tribunals were set up for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda; the permanent International Criminal Court was founded in 1998. But the Pinochet case set a precedent, and inspired victims around the world, particularly in Latin America, to challenge the amnesties of the 1980s and 1990s that had shielded dictators and their henchmen from prosecution. In the annals of international law, it is for this that General Pinochet will be remembered rather than for his own lucky escape from justice.