The New York Times
December 17, 1998

Court Orders New Pinochet Hearings

          By The Associated Press

          LONDON (AP) -- In an unprecedented move, Britain's highest court on Thursday set aside its own
          ruling against Gen. Augusto Pinochet because a judge failed to disclose his ties to Amnesty

          The decision rattled the judiciary and stalled Spain's efforts to extradite the former Chilean dictator.

          Responding to the legal debacle in the House of Lords, the head of Britain's judiciary said top judges
          must be required to declare any possible conflicts and withdraw from cases where bias might be

          ``We must make every effort to ensure that such a state of affairs could not occur again,'' wrote
          Lord Derry Irvine, the Lord Chancellor.

          The unanimous ruling by a five-judge tribunal means that a new House of Lords panel will rehear
          Pinochet's claim that, under British law, his status as a former foreign head of state gives him
          immunity from arrest on charges of murder and torture during his 1970-1993 rule.

          Pinochet, who was arrested Oct. 16 while recuperating from back surgery, cannot leave the country
          and remains under police guard at a rented mansion 20 miles west of London.

          Chile, however, renewed calls for the 83-year-old general to be sent home, suggesting he could be
          tried there -- even though Pinochet has immunity from prosecution in Chile as a senator for life and
          under laws he instigated while in office.

          Citing the maxim that justice must be done and also be seen to be done, Pinochet's lawyers had
          complained that Lord Justice Leonard Hoffmann should not have been allowed to sit in judgment of
          Pinochet because he is the director of Amnesty International's fundraising arm.

          Hoffmann voted with the majority in the Lords' 3-2 ruling on Nov. 25 holding that Pinochet does not
          have immunity.

          In addition to his role with the human rights group, the judge's wife has worked at Amnesty's London
          headquarters since 1977.

          Amnesty has played a key role in a long campaign to have Pinochet charged with gross abuses of
          human rights and also made special representations in the first hearing before Hoffmann and the other
          law lords. But the group insists that Hoffmann and his wife played no role in its efforts to try

          Delivering judgment Thursday, however, Lord Justice Nicolas Browne-Wilkinson noted that
          Hoffmann's ties to Amnesty ``had not been disclosed to the parties'' and said Hoffmann should have

          ``I am satisfied that the earlier decision of this house cannot stand and must be set aside,'' he said.

          Hoffmann, 64, was out of the country and had no comment, his office said. The judge and his wife
          are native-born South Africans who opposed apartheid and settled in Britain in the 1960s.

          Although he has had a highly successful legal career, the ruling by his fellow law lords is personally

          It also raised speculation that the political views and interests of judges -- who are appointed by the
          head of the judiciary -- will be more closely scrutinized in future.

          In New York, Human Rights Watch said it was ironic that ``a dictator whose clandestine war
          tribunals ordered the summary execution of hundreds of political opponents is now taking advantage
          of the full measure of British rule of law.''

          Amnesty chairman Andy McEntee noted that ``Augusto Pinochet has very inventive lawyers.''

          ``They will make this a long case, one that is hard for him to lose,'' McEntee said.

          An official Chilean report says about 3,000 people were murdered or disappeared at the hands of
          his secret police after Pinochet overthrew an elected Marxist.

          In Santiago, Chilean President Eduardo Frei said Pinochet should ``be allowed to return to Chile and
          let us Chileans decide on our affairs.''

          ``This is starting to look like a legal or judicial soap opera,'' Chilean House Speaker Gutenberg
          Martinez said.

          The rehearing in the Lords, probably Jan. 18, means extradition proceedings due to start in a
          magistrate's court that day will likely be on hold. A British Cabinet minister ruled Dec. 9 that
          extradition proceedings could start.