Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (28 October) . . Page.. 2339 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The Chilean community of the ACT numbers more than 700 people, and I gather that some of them are in the gallery today. They include some who migrated during the period of economic and political uncertainty in the past in Chile. Some migrated during the period of the Allende Government, and many others migrated after experiencing persecution and terror under the Pinochet regime. The trauma experienced by many members of our Chilean community has not diminished over time. I am aware that a dedicated ACT community organisation, the Latin American Refugee Association, is active in supporting and settling Chilean refugees and other refugees from Latin America. I have heard some of those people express deep feelings of injustice that their suffering continues while the perpetrators have not been brought to justice in Chile.
Sadly, this experience is not unique to Chilean migrants in Australia. Many migrants to Australia, and even to Canberra, from all over the world have suffered similar experiences of repressive behaviour, torture and other abuses of human rights. Among this number we could count recent migrants from areas which include parts of Asia, southern Europe, Africa and elsewhere.
The experience of all these people has one thing in common and that is that it ought to lead us, as citizens of a democracy, to consider the value of the democratic experience and our expectations of good government for ourselves and for others. We expect governments to respect human rights. We do not expect governments to persecute their citizens for any reason, and certainly not for difference of political belief. That is not a situation which we would accept in our own country, and nor is it one we should tolerate elsewhere.
There is a debate about the sovereignty of nations and the capacity of nations to determine for themselves what they will do for themselves, and that is an argument, I think, that carries some weight when democracies are dealing with other democracies. But, Mr Speaker, unquestionably, when nations operate on other systems which do not permit the free expression of popular will in the system of government, the obligation of other people and the right of other people to be concerned about and to be active about the internal affairs of those countries become a real issue. Members will know that the international community of nations has methods of dealing with wrongdoing by governments, especially when they involve human rights abuses. We have seen this expressed in diplomatic actions, economic sanctions, war crimes tribunals and a range of other responses.
The particular case of the recent arrest of General Pinochet by the British Government in London has been acknowledged internationally to involve some novel legal issues. I understand that these are matters at present before the British courts. Being a system of government which operates under the principle of the rule of law, I feel confident that the British courts are in a position to resolve the legal issues surrounding the arrest of General Pinochet and to resolve whether he can legitimately be extradited to Spain to face trial there or in other places. The Federal Government, I understand, has taken the view that the arrest of General Pinochet is a matter for the governments of the United Kingdom, Spain and Chile. I think we need at this stage to be aware that the decision is one, at least in part, for British courts, and, as I said, I am confident that those courts will be able to determine appropriately the legality of the steps being taken and then to act appropriately if it is possible to extradite General Pinochet to Spain.