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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 22:48 GMT 23:48 UK
Chile rights deadline suspended
By Clinton Porteous
BBC News, Santiago

Anti-Pinochet march in Santiago in 2000
Tens of thousands of people "disappeared" during military rule
Chile's Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended a deadline it set earlier this year for an end to investigations into alleged human rights abuses.

The new ruling means judges will be given extra time to investigate and charge suspects in more than 150 cases.

Some of the cases involve former president General Augusto Pinochet.

Relatives of victims and human rights groups have been campaigning against the deadline, which was due to take effect on 25 July.

They said the new ruling was a breakthrough.

Human rights lawyer Nelson Caucoto described the Supreme Court decision as "splendid".

He said judges would now have time to thoroughly examine allegations of human rights abuses.

'Changed circumstances'

Last January the Supreme Court declared that investigations into alleged human rights violations had to be wrapped up within six months. The main argument then was that most of the alleged crimes had occurred more than 30 years ago and the ongoing investigations were unfair to the alleged perpetrators.

But on Friday, a Supreme Court spokesman announced the indefinite suspension of the deadline.

The spokesman said changed circumstances had forced the new ruling. He said new judges had been assigned to human rights cases and they needed extra time to do their work.

One of the new judges is Victor Montiglio, who will take over the work of Judge Juan Guzman, who retired earlier this week.

He will have responsibility for 35 investigations, including the key case of Operation Condor, a campaign by Latin American military regimes to hunt down opponents.

General Pinochet has been charged with murder and kidnapping in the case.

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