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Wednesday, January 13, 1999 Published at 22:25 GMT

UK Politics

Chile to have say in Pinochet hearing

Chile will be able to make written and oral representations

The House of Lords has ruled that Chile can be represented at next week's hearing to decide whether General Augusto Pinochet is immune from prosecution.

The pinochet File
A panel of three Law Lords reached the decision to allow Chile to have a say in the rerun of the case to decide whether its former ruler is to be extradited to Spain.

The finding will grant the Republic of Chile leave to make both written and oral representations at the new hearing, which begins on Monday.

The Chilean Government says it is "content" with the decision.

The panel's chairman Lord Browne-Wilkinson said it would be wrong for Chile to be excluded.

[ image: Lord Hoffmann: Links to Amnesty International overturned the original ruling]
Lord Hoffmann: Links to Amnesty International overturned the original ruling
The Law Lords decided in November that the former dictator had no immunity from arrest and extradition, but that ruling was set aside because of concern about possible bias by one of the judges.

Shortly after the first hearing concluded, it emerged Lord Hoffmann had failed to declare long-standing links with the human rights organisation Amnesty International.

The ruling on Wednesday has also granted leave for a group headed by Amnesty International to intervene.

However, the Law Lords restricted another campaigning organisation, Human Rights Watch, to making written submissions.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson said he was conscious the Republic of Chile had made its application to be heard at the new hearing at a "very late" stage in the history of the case.

'Personal shield'

But he said it was possible the Chilean Government was entitled to be present as a party in the litigation.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson set out one stipulation - that given the lateness of their application, the Chilean government should serve an account of its case on all the other parties to the hearing no later than 2000 GMT on Thursday.

[ image: The new hearing will begin on Monday]
The new hearing will begin on Monday
Earlier Lawrence Collins QC, for the Republic of Chile, told the Law Lords the Chilean Government wanted to be represented at next week's hearing to assert its own state immunity.

In a written petition to the court, the Chilean Government said it was not seeking to defend General Pinochet's actions while he was head of state.

The petition said it was not trying to prevent him from being investigated and tried for crimes he was alleged to have committed while in office, provided the investigation and trial took place in the only appropriate courts, namely those of Chile.

The Chilean Government's position was not intended to provide a "personal shield" for General Pinochet, but was rather intended to defend Chilean national sovereignty.

Alun Jones QC, for the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Kingdom of Spain, objected to the Chilean application to be represented on the grounds of the lateness of the application, and uncertainty over what issues the Chilean Government intended to raise.

He said: "We fear it will lead to not only a longer hearing, but a more difficult one, which could have been avoided by putting in heads of argument long ago."

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13 Jan 99 | World
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