(London) - As the extradition hearings of Gen. Augusto Pinochet closed today, Human Rights Watch expressed confidence that Magistrate Ronald Bartle would commit the former dictator for extradition.

"This is an open and shut case," said Reed Brody, Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, which took part in the Pinochet hearings before the House of Lords earlier this year. "Pinochet's lawyers have tried diversions and smokescreens but they could not obscure the very substantial allegations linking Pinochet to a policy of torture."

The charges against Pinochet include one count of conspiracy to commit torture as well as 34 specific counts of torture against named individuals after December 1988. Human Rights Watch described the allegation of conspiracy as one of the most significant charges against Pinochet, as well as the one which his lawyers were least likely to defeat.

"The conspiracy charge goes to the heart of the case because it alleges that Pinochet used torture as a weapon of intimidation and political persecution," said Brody. "The charge will allow the Spanish prosecutors to show that Pinochet created an institutional framework that relied on torture, that he was fully aware that torture was being practiced systematically and that he never once punished anyone who had committed torture."

Human Rights Watch also underlined the significance of the prosecution's reference to over 1,000 "disappearances" as part of Pinochet's wide-ranging conspiracy, as well as the reading by chief prosecution lawyer Alun Jones of letters from the families of the "disappeared."

"International law recognizes that the cruel practice of 'disappearance' inflicts serious pain and suffering on the loved ones of the 'disappeared' person, and that this torture continues as long as the person's whereabouts are concealed," said Brody. "Including these allegations in the case is a historic acknowledgement of their continuing anguish."