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Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 10:29 GMT
Anger at 'unjust' Pinochet ruling

Anti-Pinochet protestors at Wentworth remained defiant
Protestors in Britain and human rights groups have condemned the decision to halt extradition proceedings against General Augusto Pinochet.

The pinochet File
Scores of campaigners had waited throughout the night outside the general's temporary home on the Wentworth estate, holding a candlelit vigil until the news of Pinochet's fate filtered through.

Henrika Harkko, a 24-year-old student from Santiago, now studying in west London, said: "We have demonstrated in vain and now he shall never be brought to trial for the torture and murder of our people.

"I feel sick. This decision has killed justice

Fedor Castello
"We have tried to make the world listen, we wanted justice, we are not getting it."

Fellow protester Fedor Castello, 55, who arrived in Britain in 1978, said: "I feel sick. This decision has killed justice. This man is a criminal and should stand trial for the crimes he has committed."

Britain no 'safe haven'

Human rights groups expressed disappointment with Jack Straw's decision.

But they said the Pinochet episode showed that Britain was no longer a safe haven for retired dictators.

Paul May, a spokesman for Chile Committee for Justice, a coalition of Chilean community organisations and British human rights groups, said: "We are naturally disappointed with the ruling. The process towards the end was somewhat fraught.

The case has confirmed that the crime of torture can now be prosecuted anywhere in the world, no matter where the torture was committed or by whom

Amnesty International
"But we are not losing sight of our major achievements. He has been discredited in the eyes of the world."

He added: "We take pride that this county is no longer a safe haven for retired dictators."

A spokesman for Amnesty International said the precedent established by the case would remain "the most important since the Nuremberg trials".

He said: "The case has confirmed that the crime of torture can now be prosecuted anywhere in the world, no matter where the torture was committed or by whom."

Reed Brody, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said: "It is a terrible disappointment for Pinochet's thousands of victims that he will not face trial in Spain.

"But the very fact that he was arrested and that his claim of immunity was rejected, has already changed the calculus of dictators around the world."

Torture victim

British doctor Sheila Cassidy, who was tortured by the regime of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in the mid-1970s, told of her "considerable sadness" that he is not to stand trial.

General Pinochet
General is said to have brain damage
Dr Cassidy, who lives in Plymouth and works at the city's Derriford Hospital, said: "I have no personal animosity towards him.

"But I feel very strongly on behalf of the families of the disappeared, and on my own behalf that he should have stood trial."

Anti-Pinochet group, the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said Mr Straw's ruling amounted to a "denial of justice" for the many victims of his regime.

Director Helen Bamber said: "This case has re-opened many old wounds.

"Victims of this regime who survived have relived their suffering, as have the families of the murdered and disappeared.

"They have the right to see the architect of their misery stand in the dock an accused man."

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See also:

02 Mar 00 |  UK
Pinochet set free
12 Jan 00 |  The Pinochet file
The Pinochet case: Timeline
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