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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 15:39 GMT


Pinochet makes historic Lords appeal

Protesters in Santiago burnt the British flag

In an unprecedented move, lawyers for General Augusto Pinochet are asking the House of Lords to set aside a decision by Law Lords that the former Chilean leader does not enjoy sovereign immunity.

The pinochet File
They claim one of the Law Lords, Lord Hoffmann, was biased against General Pinochet because of his links with the human rights group Amnesty International.

His wife, Gillian, apparently also works as an administrative assistant at Amnesty International.

Joshua Rozenberg reports on General Pinochet's "best chance for freedom"
Law Lords will convene on Tuesday for a meeting with General Pinochet's lawyers. A committee of three Law Lords will consider representations from the lawyers that the ruling on the general's immunity should be overturned, because of Lord Hoffmann's links with Amnesty International.

The lawyers' move comes a day after UK Home Secretary Jack Straw gave the go-ahead for extradition proceedings against the 83-year-old general.

Ben Brown reports from Chile where "the country's armed forces are furious"
His lawyers are petitioning the Lords for leave to challenge the decision reached by a panel of five Law Lords, by a 3-2 majority, two weeks ago.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it had been informed of the move.

It is unheard of in modern times for House of Lords rulings to be appealed but a spokesman for the Lords said arrangements would be made for it to be heard by an appeal committee of the Law Lords.

[ image:  ]
General Pinochet's lawyer, Michael Caplan, said: "Having carefully considered all the recent developments, we can confirm we have lodged a petition with the House of Lords that the decision of their Lordships that Senator Pinochet does not have sovereign immunity should not be allowed to stand."

He said they were also considering applying for leave to apply for judicial review of the Home Secretary Jack Straw's decision to issue an "Authority to Proceed".

[ image: Lord Hoffman has links with Amnesty International]
Lord Hoffman has links with Amnesty International
Amnesty International expressed "surprise" at the move and a spokesman said: "The fact that they've had to resort to this approach after Jack Straw ruled it out as a factor shows how desperate they are to distract attention away from the allegations of murder and torture which have been levelled against Pinochet."

Amnesty said the charity had also received support from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, who ruled that General Pinochet was immune from prosecution.

Amnesty lawyer Geoffrey Bindman: "Lord Hofmann is an outstanding, independent-minded judge"
The charity also pointed out that General Pinochet's lawyers, Kingsley Napley, had donated £1,000 towards the creation of a new headquarters for Amnesty.

Meanwhile, the Spanish judge seeking the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, has issued a 285-page indictment charging the general with crimes against humanity.

Judge Baltasar Garzon, who ordered General Pinochet's arrest in October, also asked for his worldwide assets to be frozen.

The indictment says Gen Pinochet is responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 3,000 people.

It accuses him of being responsible for genocide, torture and terrorism.

Judge Garzon has conducted a two-year investigation into atrocities committed by various right-wing regimes in South America in the 1970s and 1980s.

[ image: General Pinochet could soon be heading for trial in Spain]
General Pinochet could soon be heading for trial in Spain
The general is due to make his first public appearance on Friday when he appears at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London.

In Chile police have used water cannon to disperse demonstrators protesting against the decision to allow extradition proceedings to go ahead.

Several hundred supporters of the general gathered outside the British ambassador's residence to voice their anger at Mr Straw's ruling.

They burned British flags and called for General Pinochet's immediate return to Chile.

President Eduardo Frei and Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza are due to return to Santiago later on Thursday from a trade summit held in Brazil.

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Internet Links

Amnesty International

House of Lords - Judicial Work and Judgements

Home Office

The full text of the Law Lords' ruling

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