(London) - Human Rights Watch described as "historic" the proceedings which begin today on the extradition of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

"Pinochet's victims have waited 25 years for this historic moment," said Reed Brody, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, which took part in the Pinochet hearings before the House of Lords earlier this year. "For the Crown prosecutors to formally read out the charges of torture and conspiracy against General Pinochet is a measure of vindication for the thousands who were killed, tortured or ‘disappeared' by his regime."

Human Rights Watch expressed optimism that Magistrate Ronald Bartle would rule in favor of Pinochet's extradition after the hearings, which are expected to last about one week. "We expect this case to be decided on the law, and the law is very clear," said Brody. "Pinochet is wanted in Spain for very serious crimes, and Britain has a legal obligation to turn him over to Spain or to try him in Britain."

The group hailed Friday's ruling by Spain's National Court re-affirming Spain's jurisdiction to prosecute Pinochet. "The Spanish court's ruling undermines Pinochet's argument that Spain has no jurisdiction," said Brody.