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Pinochet Extradition Urged

(London) - Human Rights Watch today called on the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to hold General Augusto Pinochet for extradition.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Human Rights Watch, which was authorized by the House of Lords to take part in the case, listed 111 cases of torture allegedly committed under General Pinochet's command after September 1988, the date when Britain enacted the United Nations Torture Convention. The letter also cited Britain's legal obligation under the Torture Convention to extradite or prosecute General Pinochet.

"Torture in Chile was systematic but more selective at the end of Pinochet's rule," said Reed Brody, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch. "The Lords gave the green light to charges that Pinochet conspired to torture his political opponents, and this conspiracy was still very much in place in 1988."

"By 1988, it was much less necessary for General Pinochet to use torture to maintain political control in Chile," said Brody, who attended all of the Law Lords' hearings on the issue. "But the repressive apparatus he set up was still intact, and torture was still used when they felt they needed to use it."

Of the 111 cases of alleged torture listed by Human Rights Watch in the 18-month period from October 1988 to March 1990, 41 victims were subject to electric shock. Twelve of the victims died after torture. At least 42 of the torture victims were arrested for political reasons.

Human Rights Watch also referred to the hundreds of unresolved cases of "disappearances" of Pinochet's opponents. "These crimes are legally considered to continue as long as the fate of those `disappeared' is concealed," said Brody. "That means they are on-going crimes after 1988, until today."

The letter noted that a key purpose of the Torture Convention was to deny a "safe haven" to those accused of torture. In November 1998, a U.N. panel reminded the British government that under the pact it would have to initiate a prosecution against General Pinochet if it did not extradite him.

The Home Secretary invited all the parties in the Pinochet case to make submissions by today and has said that he will decide by April 15 whether to renew his "authority to proceed" with the extradition case. The Law Lords ruled that the ex-dictator could only be extradited for crimes committed after September 1988.

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