Tuesday, December 15, 1998 Published at 11:00 GMT
Pinochet challenges Law Lords
House of Lords: Unprecedented challenge to Law Lords
General Pinochet's legal team has started an unprecedented challenge before the UK's House of Lords to attempt to reverse a decision to allow extradition proceedings.
They are arguing that the earlier ruling that General Pinochet did not have diplomatic immunity must be set aside because of bias.
The appeal is based on allegations that Lord Hoffmann, who cast the deciding vote in the earlier hearing, could not have fairly judged the case because of his links with human rights group Amnesty International.
The decision by the first panel of Law Lords means the 83-year-old general is presently facing a legal battle of up to two years to prevent his extradition to Spain.
If the extradition goes ahead, he faces genocide and torture charges relating to thousands of deaths following his seizure of power in Chile's 1973 military coup.
If the Lords allow the general's case, a further hearing will have to be convened to retest the diplomatic immunity argument.
The move to challenge the Law Lords comes the day after solicitors for General Pinochet confirmed that they would be seeking a judicial review of the UK Home Secretary Jack Straw's decision to give an "Authority to Proceed" on extradition hearings.
But such applications are normally made on the basis that the home secretary's decision was wrong in law, or that he did not exercise proper discretion while acting in a "quasi-judicial" role.
The UK Home Office has declined to comment on the decision, other than to say that the general's lawyers were "within their rights" to seek a review.
Chile has recalled its ambassador to London, Mario Artaza and has announced that it is setting up a commission to examine every defence contract it has with UK and Spanish companies - warning that millions of dollars worth of business may be cancelled.