Moves by French and Spanish investigators to question Henry Kissinger for "terrorist
crimes" have been welcomed by protesters planning to disrupt the former United
States Secretary of State's talk to 2,500 business leaders at a convention in
Britain next week.
Spanish newspapers reported Thursday that a Spanish judge, Baltazar Garzon, had
asked British authorities for permission to question Kissinger while he is in
London to address the April 24 annual convention of the Institute of Directors
(IoD). They also cited a similar request to Interpol, the international police
network, from a French judge.
Both men were quoted as saying that the moves related to Kissinger's role
in abuses which took place in Chile under former dictator Augusto Pinochet. They
referred particularly to "Operation Condor," in which five Latin American rulers
worked together to get rid of opponents, and the disappearance of a number of
Europeans in Chile after the coup d'etat that brought Pinochet to power in 1973.
It was on similar grounds that Pinochet was arrested during a private visit
to London in 1998. After Britain's highest court ruled that he could be extradited
to Spain to stand trial on charges of torture and conspiracy, the human rights
organization Amnesty International said, "The message is loud and clear: head-of-state
immunity does not grant freedom to commit crimes against humanity and acts of
torture." Pinochet was subsequently freed on grounds of ill-health.
Kissinger's presence in Britain next week will prompt calls from human rights
and global justice campaigners for the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair
to hold the 79-year-old to account under the principle of "universal jurisdiction,"
which gives national courts the power to prosecute anyone on their territory suspected
of committing a crime against humanity.
"We are against the idea of Kissinger coming to this country," said Guy Taylor
of London-based Globalize Resistance, adding, however, that he would support any
domestic legal moves against the Harvard-educated National Security Adviser to
former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon.
The radical group is using leaflets, posters, and the Internet to generate
support for a morning demonstration next Wednesday outside London's Royal Albert
Hall where IoD delegates are scheduled to gather for a breakfast meeting. Campaigners
staged a mock trial of Kissinger earlier this week, at which the "chief prosecutor"
was veteran peace-activist Bruce Kent.
Taylor said the protesters were concerned not only with Kissinger's activities
in Chile, but also with the 1969 bombing of Cambodia, an attempt to thwart the
independence struggle of Bangladesh, and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor,
among other interventions which have caused major political shifts on the international
An IoD spokesman said Kissinger had been invited to address the conference
because he was "one of the world's most respected individuals." In addition to
being an entertaining speaker, he said, Kissinger's varied experience was relevant
to the meeting's theme, "Globalization - the real nature and impact."
Harvard-educated Kissinger was the joint winner of a Nobel peace prize in
1973 for his part in arranging a ceasefire in Vietnam. He was also the author
of a round of secret diplomacy that led to the opening of relations between the
US and communist China.
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