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Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
'Disappeared' protesters disrupt parliament
Protesters say rights abusers could escape justice
About 100 relatives of prisoners who went missing in Chile during General Pinochet's dictatorship burst into the Chilean parliament to protest against a new bill.

The law would grant anonymity to anyone providing information about the disappeared.

Chanting "Justice, justice, we want justice" and waving banners, they interrupted the debate and were finally taken away by police.

A total of 1,198 people remain unaccounted for
Under the legislation - passed by the Chile's Congress on Wednesday, members of the armed forces who provide information on the whereabouts of the missing will be able to remain anonymous.

Critics say it will shield those responsible for human rights abuses from prosecution.

The proposed law is based on an agreement reached earlier this month between the military and human rights groups. Under the agreement the army is to provide information, without fear of punishment, on the 1,198 people who remain unaccounted for out of the 3,190 that were killed during General Pinochet's 1973-1990 regime.

The pinochet File

But a group representing families of the missing said they were not part of the 10 months of negotiations with the military, and have filed a lawsuit to block implementation of the law.

The Group for Disappeared Prisoners fears the pact would allow the army to provide information without detailing specific circumstances of the disappearances or revealing the identity of those responsible.

Appeal ruling

Supporters of the measure, including President Lagos, say it is the only way to find out what happened to people who are still missing.

General Pinochet: Battling for immunity from criminal charges
The vote came as the Supreme Court is considering whether to uphold a ruling that stripped General Pinochet, 84, of his constitutional immunity from criminal charges stemming from his rule.

The Santiago Court of Appeal has ruled to end the legal immunity he enjoyed as self-appointed senator for life, accepting an argument that General Pinochet should stand trial for his alleged role in the "permanent kidnapping" of 19 political prisoners whose remains were never found.

General Pinochet now faces 117 criminal charges in Chilean courts.

The general returned to Chile in March after more than 16 months under house arrest in the United Kingdom.

The UK Government had ruled that he was too ill to be extradited to Spain, where a judge wanted him tried on charges of human rights abuses.

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See also:

09 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet appeal begins
05 Jun 00 | Americas
Pinochet stripped of immunity
04 Mar 00 | Americas
Thousands march against Pinochet
20 Jan 00 | The Pinochet file
Pinochet profile: Saviour or tyrant
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