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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 04:06 GMT


Pinochet judge has Amnesty links

The Law Lords: "No question" their decision will be overturned

One of the judges who ruled that General Augusto Pinochet does not have immunity from extradition to Spain, has links with the human rights organisation Amnesty International, it has been reported.

The pinochet File
Lawyers representing the former Chilean dictator may now try to question the validity of Lord Hoffman's ruling on the basis that he has been an unpaid director of Amnesty International Charity Ltd since 1990.

But BBC Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenburg says there is "no question" of reopening last month's ruling by the five Law Lords.

The BBC's Joshua Rozenburg: "It has not the slightest influence on his role as a judge"
Amnesty is understood to have confirmed Lord Hoffman's position in a letter to General Pinochet's solicitors, but the organisation says his work is not connected with its campaign against the former dictator.

In fact, Amnesty says it is impossible for the judge to be involved in their campaigning, because it would contravene its charitable status.

[ image: Lord Hoffman: Unpaid director]
Lord Hoffman: Unpaid director
The charity was set up in 1986 to fund research and education in human rights issues after Amnesty International was turned down for charitable status because of its political nature.

However, lawyers for General Pinochet have already requested that Home Secretary Jack Straw overturn the law lord's decision because Lord Hoffman's wife, Gillian, is an administrative assistant with Amnesty.

Mr Straw is currently deliberating on Spain's extradition request and is expected to deliver his decision at the end of the week.

General Pinochet's lawyers may try to base an appeal on the fact that the five law lords took representations from a number of human rights groups - including Amnesty - during hearings that helped them reach their three-two decision.

[ image: General Pinochet: Amnesty campaigned for extradition]
General Pinochet: Amnesty campaigned for extradition
Joshua Rozenberg says this would have little bearing on the case, because the decision to consult the groups was agreed by all five judges, of whom Lord Hoffman was the most junior.

He added that Lord Hoffman's position was in any case "considered perfectly consistent with the role of a judge" and was a "matter of public record".

This fresh controversy coincides with a group of General Pinochet's supporters arriving in the UK to take a petition for his release to the Home Office.

He was arrested during a visit to London for back surgery in October at the request of Spanish judges.

They want him to face trial for the crimes of torture, terrorism and genocide, allegedly committed during his reign as president of Chile from 1973 to 1990.

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The full text of the Law Lords' ruling

House of Lords - Judicial Work and Judgments

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