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Pinochet's European vacation

On October 16, 1998, London police arrested General Pinochet on a warrant from a Spanish judge for h

In the ten years since, the world has become a smaller place for brutal despots. Indeed, today a former dictator accused of thousands of killings and “disappearances,” as Pinochet was, wouldn’t even think of a European vacation.

The arrest and the subsequent decisions by the British House of Lords to reject Pinochet’s claim of immunity were a wake-up call to tyrants everywhere, but more important, they gave hope to victims elsewhere that they too could bring their tormentors to justice.

In country after country, particularly in Latin America, victims were inspired to challenge the transitional arrangements of the 1980s and 1990s that had allowed the perpetrators of atrocities to go unpunished and, often, to remain in power. Thanks to these efforts, former leaders in Argentina, Peru and Uruguay face human rights trials.

Pinochet's arrest also strengthened a nascent international movement - spurred by the killings in Bosnia and Rwanda, and facilitated by the end of the Cold War - to make certain the worst abuses are punished.

After the creation of UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the world established the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and serious war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

The ICC is now investigating crimes in Darfur, the Central African Republic, Uganda and Congo, and in July its prosecutor requested the indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of genocide in Darfur. That bold request touched off a firestorm that underlines the two great challenges facing international justice today.

The first is the so-called “peace v justice” dichotomy. Because the ICC does not recognize immunity for heads of state, it can intervene while perpetrators are still in power in an effort to prevent further crimes.

But some have argued that an indictment of Bashir will make him less inclined to respond to diplomatic efforts to negotiate peace. . A similar argument was made when the ICC indicted Ugandan rebel leaders.

Yet if there is strong international support, the Bashir indictment may also force a close examination of his responsibility, as did previous indictments of sitting rulers – Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Charles Taylor of Liberia.

And it is precisely the total absence of accountability that has allowed the brutality in Darfur to continue for so long. A move in the United Nations Security Council to suspend the ICC case in Darfur in return for unenforceable promises by Bashir to facilitate peacekeeping would be a sorry capitulation in the face of atrocity.

Another challenge is the sentiment, propagated by many African leaders, that African rulers accused of crimes are ensnared in the web of international justice while the leaders of more powerful states go free.

Unfortunately, it can’t be denied that a double standard does exist. What is the likelihood that US leaders will be brought to book for the crimes they authorized at Guantanamo and the archipelago of secret prisons around the world? Or that Russian officials will be called to account for war crimes in Chechnya?

This inequity, entrenched by military muscle and a Security Council veto, makes it easy for cynical rulers of less powerful countries to tar attempts to prosecute crimes against humanity as “political” or “neo-colonial.” But delivering justice to African victims is a positive goal, not a negative one. And the main reason why Africa dominates the ICC docket is that the continent continues to be ravaged by war and atrocity, which its justice systems are unable to address.

An important test case for “African justice” is that of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, exiled in Senegal and accused of massive crimes during his 1982-1990 rule. In 2006, the African Union called on Senegal to prosecute Habré "on behalf of Africa." If Senegal can give Habré a speedy and fair trial, Africa could begin to shake off its judicial dependence.

Ten years down the road, the debates still rage, but two things are certain: Victims have been empowered to seek redress. And leaders are on notice: if they try to get away with murder and torture, they could be brought to justice.

Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch directed the groups’ intervention in the Pinochet case and is author of 'The Pinochet Precedent'.

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An English hero for the ages: Ian Botham at 60

Botham blends his sportsmanship and deep-seated passion for cricket with a lust for life.

Begging W H Auden’s pardon, it is possible both to honour and to value the vertical man, and in the case of Ian Botham, who turned 60 on 24 November, it is our bounden duty. No sportsman has given Britons so much to enjoy in the past half-century and no sportsman is loved more. Two decades after he retired from first-class cricket, his reputation as one of life’s champions remains unassailable.

No mere cricketer is he, either. Botham is a philanthropist, having raised more than £12m for various charities, notably Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. In December, 30 years after his first walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End, he will set off again, in South Africa, where England are on tour. And he really does walk, too, not amble. As somebody who accompanied him on one of his dozen walks said: “You can’t keep up with him. The man is a phenomenon.”

Of all postwar sportsmen, only Bobby Charlton and, at a pinch, Henry Cooper come close to matching Botham’s enduring popularity. But Charlton, a shy man who was scarred by the Munich plane crash of 1958 (and may never have recovered from its emotional effects), has never comfortably occupied a public stage; and Cooper, being a boxer, had a solitary role. Botham, by contrast, spoke for England. Whenever he picked up his bat, or had a ball in his hand, he left spectators in no doubt.

Others have also spoken for England. Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, captains respectively of England’s World Cup-winning football and rugby teams, were great players but did not reach out to people as naturally as Botham. Nick Faldo, Lester Piggott, Sebastian Coe and, to bring us up to date, Lewis Hamilton have beaten the best in the world, but they lacked those qualities that Botham displayed so freely. That is not to mark them down. They were, and are, champions. But Botham was born under a different star.

It was John Arlott, the great cricket commentator, who first spotted his uniqueness. Covering a match at Taunton in 1974, he asked the young colt to carry his bags up the rickety staircase to the press box, where Arlott, wearing his oenophile’s hat, pulled out a bottle of red wine and invited Botham to drink. Forty years later Botham is a discriminating wine drinker – and maker. Along with his friend and fellow England great Bob Willis, and their Australian wine­making pal Geoff Merrill, he has put his name to a notable Shiraz, “BMW”.

Arlott, with his nose for talent and good company, saw something in the young Botham that Brian Close, his captain at Somerset, was beginning to bring out. Later, Mike Brearley, as England captain, drew out something even more remarkable. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, you’ve got to be carefully taught. And Botham, a fine team man as well as a supreme individual performer, has never withheld praise from those who enabled him to find his voice.

If sport reveals character, then cricket is the game that reveals it most clearly. In no other sport is the individual performance rooted so firmly in a team context. Every over brings a contest of skill and intelligence between batsman and bowler but only a team can win the match. “A cricketer,” as Arlott said, “is showing you something of himself all the time.”

Cricket also reveals national character more than any other sport. Football may be the most popular game in the world but cricket, and cricketers, tell us far more about England and Englishness. It is instructive, in this regard, to hear what Philippe Auclair, a French journalist and author long resident in London, has to say about Botham: “He is essentially an 18th-century Englishman.” In one! It’s not difficult to sense a kinship with Tom Jones, Fielding’s embodiment of 18th-century life, who began his journey, as readers may recall, in Somerset.

A country boy who played for Worcestershire after leaving Somerset, and who lives by choice in North Yorkshire, Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman. Although nobody has yet found him listening to the parson’s sermon, he is conservative with a small and upper-case C, a robust monarchist, handy with rod and gun, and happiest with a beaker in front of him. He represents (though he would never claim to be a representative) all those people who understand instinctively what England means, not in a narrow way, but through something that is in the blood.

Above all, he will be remembered for ever as the hero of 1981. Even now it takes some believing that Botham bowled and batted with such striking success that the Australians, who were one up after two Tests, were crushed. Some of us who were actually at Headingley for the famous third Test – thousands who claim to have been there were not – recall the odds of 500-1 on an England victory going up on the electronic scoreboard that Saturday evening.

Botham made 149 not out as England, following on, beat the Aussies by 18 runs. For three hours the country seemed to stop. In the next Test, at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run as Australia fell under his spell. Then, at Old Trafford, on a dank Saturday afternoon, he played the most memorable innings of his life and one of the greatest innings ever played by an Englishman: 118 magnificent, joyful runs. Joy: that’s the word. Botham brought joy into people’s lives.

Yet it was the final Test at the Oval, which ended in a draw, that brought from him a performance no less remarkable than those from before. He bowled 89 overs in that match, flat out, continuing to run in when others withdrew with injury. That was the team man coming to the fore. Little wonder his comrades thought the world of him.

Modest, loyal, respectful to opponents, grateful to all who have lent him a hand, and supported throughout a turbulent life by Kath, his rock of a wife, and their three children, this is a cricketing hero to rank with W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Fred Trueman. A feature in the lives of all who saw him, and a very English hero. 

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State