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A servant of the powerful… An enemy of the weak

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Issue 1680

Jack Straw

Pinochet… Tyson… Juries…

A servant of the powerful.. An enemy of the weak

WHAT DOES Jack Straw know about justice? In just one week Straw has:

  • Let the monster Pinochet escape trial in Spain for his crimes of torture and murder.
  • Announced plans to end the right to trial by jury for thousands of people.
  • Allowed boxer Mike Tyson, who is convicted of rape, into Britain because big business has millions riding on his fight.

At the same time Straw refuses entry to refugees who are fleeing persecution and war. Nelly Salas, one protester demanding Pinochet is put on trial, said last week, “I put my trust in Jack Straw. Now I have changed my mind. There is no justice.”

Even the law lords and a Tory magistrate have ruled that Pinochet should answer for his terrible crimes. Yet Jack Straw says a report by medical experts shows Pinochet is “unfit to stand trial”. One of those medical experts, Sir John Grimley Evans, let slip on Monday of this week that Pinochet COULD make a full recovery. But Straw ruled that the report should remain secret so he could not be questioned over his decision. He gave anti-Pinochet campaigners until Tuesday to lodge appeals against his decision. But if Straw chooses to ignore those appeals, Pinochet will be free.

One of Pinochet’s victims is Sergio Requena-Rueda, a Chilean exile and now MSF union senior steward at Marconi. He says, “This is the case of a mass murderer. This is a fight about justice for people like me who were tortured. Does Labour mean what it says about an ethical foreign policy?”

Margaret Thatcher, however, praised Straw for being “a very fair man”. And media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was no doubt cheering the Tyson decision. He stood to lose record profits from showing the Tyson fight on his BSkyB pay per view network.

Fight promoter Frank Warren also claimed local businesses would go bankrupt if the 7 million fight was cancelled. So Straw ruled there were “exceptional circumstances” to allow Tyson in. He said he had “taken account of the effects on business in the Manchester area”. Campaigning group Justice for Women tried unsuccessfully this week to appeal against the Tyson decision.

Spokesperson Julie Bindel said, “We are against all the stringency and racism in immigration laws. “Many people seeking refuge are not allowed in. So why Jack Straw should intervene and welcome Tyson with open arms is what many women, and men, can’t understand.” In the last week Straw has listened only to the rich and powerful while brushing aside the protests of those campaigning for human rights and justice. He deserves only one thing: to be hounded wherever he goes.


STRAW’S PLANS to restrict trial by jury are also a scandal. He wants to scrap the right to a jury trial in a crown court for around 18,000 people in England and Wales who face charges every year like theft. Instead they will face a magistrates court where they are more likely to be convicted. Home Office research shows that black people in particular are more likely to be jailed by magistrates. Straw opposed exactly the same plan when the Tories were in office. “Trial by jury is a key freedom in our democracy,” he said then. But now he feels saving 105 million is well worth the price of innocent people being sent to jail.

“STRAW IS so hypocritical. Black people like myself look at the way Straw treats a rich man like Tyson, who has a rape conviction, and then look at the way he treated the family of Stephen Lawrence. Straw didn’t have any respect for Doreen and Neville. He treated them with contempt.”

  • CAROL McFARLANE, Manchester community nurse

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