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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 20:01 GMT


Torture treaty 'too late to prosecute Pinochet'

General Pinochet claims time is on his side

Lawyers defending former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet have said the international convention against torture came into force too late to allow Spain to prosecute him for the crime.

The pinochet File
The claim came on the 10th day of the hearing at the House of Lords to decide whether Gen Pinochet has immunity from prosecution and potential extradition to Spain over alleged crimes of torture and other human rights abuses.

Gen Pinochet's lawyer Clive Nicholls said of the 30 charges made against him by Spain, only one involved torture committed after 1988, when Chile signed the convention.

He said that even if Gen Pinochet, who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, did not have immunity, he could not be charged with the other offences because of the legal doctrine that one cannot be guilty of a crime retrospectively.

This latest hearing was called by the Law Lords after a previous High Court ruling in November declaring that the general did not have immunity from prosecution was discounted.

Gen Pinochet's lawyers complained that Lord Hoffmann, one of the Law Lords who voted to quash the decision, had not declared in advance his long-standing links with human rights organisation Amnesty International.

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