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Western Press Review: International Justice, Global Economy

  • Don Hill

Prague, 3 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Efforts around the world to bring suspected terrorists and war criminals to justice draws comment in the Western press today. There is also comment on global economic concerns.

WASHINGTON POST: Pinochet is finding he is not the law

In a commentary in today's Washington Post, Richard Cohen backs efforts to bring former Chilean leader General Augusto Pinochet to trial for alleged crimes under his dictatorship.

Cohen, in a piece titled "Cuffs for Pinochet", writes that the general's arrest in Britain transformed "the haughty and vain senator for life into a literary character ... yet another tin pot Latin American dictator reduced in his dotage (he is 83) to a confused and bewildered prisoner." Cohen continues: "His presumed diplomatic immunity was stripped from him as widows, orphans and editorialists the world over demanded an accounting."

Cohen concludes: "Pinochet authorized or permitted the murder and torture of people who were innocent of any crime. He did so because he thought he was the law. Now he is finding out he is not."

NEWSDAY: We may be creating more problems

Robert Reno of Newsday gives an opposing view. Reno writes: "If former South American dictators are heretofore to be hauled off to Spanish slammers, we may be creating more problems than the simple justice of the matter can deal with."

The writer asks, rhetorically: "Do we want to create a body of global law in which the Pinochets of this world will never dare retire, will redouble their killings because they fear they'll get arrested if they graciously resign, lose their immunity and then have to go abroad for a back operation?"

He says: "Imagine the fuss if every time (former U.S. President) Richard Nixon had gone abroad, some Spanish judge had ordered his arrest for bombing Cambodia, making it necessary to send the Marines to rescue him. If (Cuban leader) Fidel Castro agreed to retire tomorrow and declare free elections, who would mind giving him a safe retirement under house arrest in a modest villa outside Madrid, with someone to iron his fatigues and a balcony from which he could give six-hour speeches every afternoon?"

Reno continues: "Do not imagine (that Pinochet) is friendless and abandoned. I am fairly sure that members of the University of Chicago's economics faculty, who advised him and helped provide respectability to his despotism, might fly to Spain to testify in his defense. The great former Chicagoan, conservative Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, a Pinochet apologist, might lend his name. So might Margaret Thatcher, an iron lady of plastic principle when it comes to dictators, who denounced his detainment."

Reno concludes: "If the Cold War and its mindless excesses taught us nothing else, it ought to have left us with one pure truth: How you saved a great nation from communism was as important as the saving of it."

GUARDIAN: Karadzic's arrest would send a political tidal wave into neighboring Serbia

With the arrest yesterday of Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on war crimes charges, Chris Bird writes in a news analysis in The Guardian, London, that apprehending the top Balkan targets will be difficult.

He writes: "Sources appear to agree that (Bosnian Serb) General (Ratko)Mladic is in Serbia, where the (U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague) is battling -- without success -- to insist the court has jurisdiction. The reluctance to arrest (former Bosnian Serb president Radovan) Karadzic is rooted in political and security concerns."

Bird goes on: "Karadzic's arrest would send a political tidal wave into neighboring Serbia. With Chile's General Augusto Pinochet apparently set for extradition from Britain to face genocide charges, President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia would appear fair game."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Annan's mission to Libya could mark the end in a long quest

In the Los Angeles Times, John Daniszewski writes in a news analysis that two Libyans accused of the 1988 terror bombing of Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, appear on the verge of facing trial. Daniszewski writes: "With Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi apparently close to surrendering two suspects to stand trial in the Netherlands for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was making arrangements (yesterday) to fly to Libya this weekend to try to close the deal.

"Annan's mission to Libya -- within days of the (tenth) anniversary of the explosion of the jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people -- could mark the end in the long quest by the United States and Britain to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. By cooperating with the United Nations, Gadhafi also would obtain a long-sought goal: the suspension of the U.N. sanctions that have barred air travel to and from Libya since 1992."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The West cannot afford to see Russia descend into anarchy

Turning to economics, Miriam Neubert writing today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, comments that Russia isn't getting all that it wants from the IMF, but that the IMF knows the West can't afford to abandon Russia entirely. She writes that Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov tried making a joke to lighten the atmosphere ahead of his meeting yesterday with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Michel Camdessus. Primakov said the meeting "was not about suitcases full of money since (Camdessus) had only brought along a briefcase full of documents."

But, light talk aside, she writes, the situation is serious. Neubert writes: "Russia is caught in a debt trap. The state budget is burdened by its obligations to both domestic and foreign creditors, but the government is banking on the IMF money and at the same time trying to restructure its foreign debt. The meeting was an attempt to build trust through personal contact. But ultimately, Primakov's method of pressuring the money out of the IMF -- and the rich country governments which finance it -- is (based on) the West's realization that it cannot afford to see Russia descend into anarchy."

WASHINGTON POST: U.S. policy toward the Caspian region must be built on more than pipeline routes

David J. Kramer is associate director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In a commentary published in The Washington Post, he examines U.S. oil policy in the Caspian Sea region and warns that global politics, national self interest, and economics don't always mix into good policy. Kramer says: "The (Caspian region) has assumed a large role in the Clinton administration's strategy toward Russia and the other new independent states in the area, as well as Iran and Turkey. The key to this strategy is promotion by the administration of a pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey."

Kramer writes that "This route, in bypassing both Russia and Iran, would accomplish three U.S. foreign policy goals: strengthen the independence of the Caspian states by reducing their dependence on Russia for energy exports; exclude Iran from any possible windfalls; and solidify ties with Turkey, a NATO member. From Turkey's perspective, it also would cut down on traffic through the crowded Bosporus Straits. All these would appear to be laudable goals. The trouble is that the oil companies involved in the Caspian do not support construction of the administration's favored pipeline."

Kramer concludes: "As an election observer in Azerbaijan, I was struck by the generally warm response I received traveling around the country. A number of people approached me and my colleagues and thanked us for coming to observe their country's election. The United States must not let these people down by whitewashing what is happening in their country or in the other states in the region. U.S. policy toward the Caspian region must be built on more than pipeline routes."

DIE WELT: The deep economic crisis looks like it's planting its roots

Finally, Nina Gerstenberg comments in the German daily Die Welt that, despite remission, the Asian economic cancer remains uncured. She writes: "The heavy losses which started the week on East Asia's stock markets, especially the key Hong Kong exchange, cannot be written off to market psychology, a correction, or some other passing phenomenon."

She continues that the losses "are the direct result of investors taking a hard look at the latest economic data. That data, despite widespread hopes of an impending recovery, indicates that the deep economic crisis which swept into the region last year looks like it's planting its roots and preparing for a long stay. Even the perennial optimists are starting to sound discouraged -- and no wonder."

Official reports show the economies sinking in Hong Kong, Maylaysia, Thailand, Singapore, she reports, and sometimes even apparently favorable news only masks underlying problems. Gerstenberg says: "Some economists have pointed to rising trade surpluses as an encouraging sign, but most admit that they are due more to a collapse in imports -- a corollary of falling domestic consumption -- than any major improvement on the export side."