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Spanish P.M. Urged to Support Pinochet Prosecution

Human Rights Watch Seeks Aznar Backing for International Law

(New York) - In a letter today to Spain's Prime Minister José María Aznar López, Human Rights Watch urged the Spanish government to take all necessary steps to ensure that legal proceedings against General Augusto Pinochet move forward.

Spain has taken center stage at a critical drama of international law," said José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch's executive director for the Americas. "In deciding the fate of Pinochet, Spain must take the side of justice."  
 
In the two-page letter, Human Rights Watch-the largest U.S.-based human rights organization-congratulated Prime Minister Aznar for his statements to journalists asserting that there would be no obstacles to letting the Spanish justice system do its job, including a possible request for the extradition of Pinochet. At the same time, the organization expressed deep concern about Aznar's additional statements that the legal proceedings against Pinochet could undermine transitions to democracy in other countries.  
 
"These crimes are so serious that the mere suggestion that they should remain unpunished for reasons of uncertain political convenience offends the most basic principles of justice," the letter argues.  
 
The human rights violations committed during Pinochet's military dictatorship were so serious and so systematic that they should be characterized as crimes against humanity, the letter states. According to international law, therefore, all members of the international community have the rights, and even the duty, to investigate, judge, and condemn them. A guilty verdict in the Pinochet case would support democracy and respect for human rights around the world.

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