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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 17:26 GMT
Pinochet judge bars human rights groups
general General Pinochet is appealing against extradition

Human rights groups will not be involved in General Augusto Pinochet's upcoming challenge against extradition to Spain, judges have ruled.

The pinochet File
The decision was made by two High Court judges who set 20 March as the date for a five-day hearing of the former Chilean dictator's application for a writ of habeas corpus.

If he is successful in his application, he would inevitably be allowed to return home.

Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London has committed Pinochet to await extradition on all the 35 charges he faces - one of conspiracy to torture and 34 of the torture of Chilean individuals.

His lawyers will argue the decision was fatally flawed on many grounds and cannot stand.

There are no doubt many bodies representing the interests of victims and defendants who would like to take part in such proceedings
Lord Justice Rose
Both Amnesty International and the Association of the Victims of the Disappeared asked to be served with the case papers so they could decide whether to intervene in March.

Lawyers for the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation, which has monitored events in Chile over several decades, also said they would like to see the papers and be represented in court.

But Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mrs Justice Smith, refused to exercise the court's discretion to allow them to intervene.

The judge said Human Rights Watch had accepted any evidence in its possession could be made available to the parties already involved in the action, including the Spanish government and Pinochet's lawyers.

The case essentially involved what were criminal proceedings, which, at High Court and Appeal Court level, did not normally allow representations by interested parties.

'Overwhelming reasons'

"There are no doubt many bodies representing the interests of victims and defendants who would like to take part in such proceedings," said the judge.

"In my judgement there would need to be overwhelming reasons for such participation to be permitted at the level of these courts."

Both judges refused the human rights groups permission to appeal against their decision in the Court of Appeal.

The organisations are now considering whether to ask the appeal judges themselves to hear their applications.

Amnesty International has already been at the centre of a decision in the Pinochet case which rocked the legal world.

The Law Lords were forced to set aside an earlier ruling and reconsider whether the former dictator had immunity from prosecution and extradition, after his lawyers accused Lord Hoffmann of allowing a "real danger of bias" into the original hearing - because of his long-standing relationship with Amnesty.

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See also:
17 Oct 99 |  World
Protests on Pinochet anniversary
14 Oct 99 |  UK
Chile requests Pinochet release
08 Oct 99 |  UK
Q & A: What next for Pinochet?
11 Dec 98 |  The Pinochet file
The Pinochet case: Timeline
08 Oct 99 |  Medical notes
Minor strokes: The health risks
22 Oct 99 |  World
Pinochet lodges appeal

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