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Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 12:31:29 -0600 (CST)
From: Ray Mitchell <RMITCHEL%AI-UK@amnesty.org.uk>
Subject: AI: United Kingdom bulletin
Organization: ?
Article: 48147
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.12447.19981121121530@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Augusto Pinochet, former President of Chile: Impunity / legal concern

Amnesty International urgent action bulletin, AI Index: AMR 22/25/98
19 November 1998

Amnesty International is seriously concerned that if Augusto Pinochet, Chile's former military ruler, is allowed to return to Chile from the UK, there will be no opportunity for any court of law to determine his guilt or innocence with respect to any of the charges of crimes against humanity brought against him, as listed in the extradition requests from several countries. He would effectively be granted impunity for crimes against humanity.

Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London, UK, on 16 October 1998 after Spain issued a judicial request for his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity, relating to cases of torture, "disappearance" and killings during Chile's military regime (1973-1990).

On 29 October Britain's High Court granted Augusto Pinochet immunity from prosecution under international law on the basis that he is a former head of state. The House of Lords are currently deliberating on an appeal against this ruling, and are expected to make their decision in the middle of next week. If they find that the arrest of Augusto Pinochet was lawful, the final decision on his extradition rests with the UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Over 3,000 people have been officially recognised by the Chilean authorities as having died as a result of torture, killed or "disappeared" during the military regime. Thousands more were systematically tortured or forced into exile. For over 25 years, relatives of the victims of these human rights violations have been denied knowing the truth and seeing the perpetrators brought to justice. The perpetrators of human rights abuses committed in Chile between 1973 and 1978 were granted virtual impunity as a result of the 1978 Amnesty law and constitutional provisions passed during Augusto Pinochet's government.

The scale, gravity and systematic nature of the human rights abuses which took place in Chile under Augusto Pinochet's military regime constitute crimes against humanity under international law. The conditions of responsibility for these crimes are set down in international law, which is independent of domestic law. States have a duty under their international obligations to prosecute and punish these crimes. Under international law, states also have a full obligation to cooperate in the identification, detention and extradition of persons responsible for crimes against humanity. The Spanish courts have jurisdiction to investigate and try Augusto Pinochet, and the UK has the duty to cooperate by granting his extradition to Spain to be tried.

Since Augusto Pinochet's arrest, France and Switzerland have also issued requests for his extradition. These would be rendered ineffective if Britain decides to grant the former General immunity from prosecution.

Amnesty International believes that the extradition requests and the massive public response generated by Augusto Pinochet's arrest illustrates the demand for those responsible for crimes against humanity to be tried in a court of law, regardless of their status or position. They should not be enabled to obtain impunity by invoking immunity or special privileges to avoid legal proceedings.

Amnesty International was allowed to intervene as a third party in the appeal against the High Court's decision in the House of Lords.

Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns described above. If you would like to join with them in this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action network or Amnesty International in general, please contact one of the following:

Ray Mitchell, ua@amnesty.org.uk (UK) Scott Harrison, sharrison@igc.apc.org (USA) Guido Gabriel, ggabriel@amnesty.cl.sub.de (Germany) Marilyn McKim, mmckim@amnesty.ca (Canada) ua@aibf.be (Belgium) Anne Nolan, ua@amnesty.iol.ie (Ireland)

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