January 13, 2000
Human rights groups want second opinion on Pinochet's health
British report that former dictator too sick to stand trial challenged

                 From staff and wire reports

                  COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN) -- Human rights groups called
                  Thursday for more medical evaluations to corroborate Britain's
                  decision that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is medically unfit to
                  stand trial on human rights charges.

                  British Home Secretary Jack Straw's ruling effectively blocked Pinochet's
                  extradition to Spain or any of the other countries that have investigated the
                  general's iron-fisted, 17-year rule of Chile, which lasted from 1973 to 1990.

                  Nations seeking 84-year-old Pinochet's extradition from Great Britain on
                  charges of human rights abuses against their citizens are Spain, France,
                  Switzerland and Belgium. Straw gave parties affected by the ruling one week
                  to appeal his decision.

                  Inge Genefke, secretary-general of the International Rehabilitation Council
                  for Torture Victims (IRTC), based in Copenhagen, Denmark, demanded
                  that an international team of doctors conduct a second test.

                  "I'm not attacking the British doctors," Genefke told CNN Danmark. "But as
                  a doctor myself, I'm used to hearing the opinions of others. And in this case
                  it's extremely important."

                  A team of four independent doctors examined Pinochet on January 5 and
                  determined that his physical and mental health had deteriorated significantly.

                  Genefke made his recommendations for another evaluation in an open letter
                  to Straw, but told CNN Danmark that a medical report should not be the
                  final determination on whether Pinochet stands trial.

                  "According to international law, it's not allowed to permit any kind of
                  amnesty for torturers," she said. "And doctors are not to decide whether a
                  person should testify or not. It's up to the courts to decide that."

                  Amnesty International also called for further examinations, and said it was
                  meeting its lawyers and other human rights organizations to determine the
                  next step.

                  "Since the states requesting his extradition were not given the opportunity to
                  observe the medical examination, then they should be allowed to ... nominate
                  their medical expert to conduct a medical examination," said Amnesty

                  Meanwhile, human rights lawyers in Spain joined forces with the Spanish
                  judge behind Pinochet's arrest -- Baltasar Garzon -- to appeal Straw's
                  decision. They focused their attacks on Straw's decision to keep the results
                  of Pinochet's medical examination confidential.

                  Pinochet was arrested in London in October 1998 at the request of Garzon,
                  who was investigating the fate of several Spaniards who were in Chile during
                  the general's rule. Straw's ruling came as Garzon pushed for extradition to
                  Spain so the former dictator could stand trial.

                  Although Spanish and Chilean governments have indicated they will not
                  appeal Britain's decision, Spanish lawyers say they will press on with the
                  case. Switzerland, Belgium and France are considering their next course of

                      CNN Danmark's Jesper Bang-Udesen and Reuters contributed to this report.