The New York Times
April 16, 1999

Britain Decides to Let the Pinochet Extradition Case Proceed

          By WARREN HOGE

          LONDON -- Britain gave an official go-ahead Thursday to
          extradition proceedings against Gen. Augusto Pinochet, dashing his
          hopes of being freed to return to Chile and setting the stage for months of
          legal maneuvering over the request by Spain to try him on charges of
          crimes against humanity.

          Home Secretary Jack Straw said he was letting the case proceed despite
          a decision last month by the House of Lords that drastically reduced the
          charges against the former Chilean dictator.

          Straw said the remaining allegations of torture and conspiracy to torture
          satisfied the European Convention on Extradition and imposed an
          obligation on Britain to permit the Spanish request to go before British
          courts. A hearing was set for April 30.

          Fernando Barros of the Chilean Reconciliation Movement assailed the
          decision as an act of "outrageous political persecution" and said it
          showed "contempt for Chilean sovereignty, for Chilean democracy and
          for the Chilean courts."

          The advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, Reed Brody, applauded
          the move as a significant victory, saying: "Up until now it's been about the
          law. But now it's about the crimes, and he's going to have to answer the

          The case, six months old, has transformed international law, galvanized
          human rights and exile groups and stirred passionate old antagonisms in
          Chile and other countries that have recent experiences of dictatorial
          regimes. It has produced diplomatic problems for Britain despite the
          government's insistence that Pinochet's detention has been from the start
          a police and judicial matter rather than a political one.

          The decision Thursday represents the second time that Straw has
          permitted the extradition case to go forward. But he based his first
          authorization, on Dec. 9, on the much broader case that existed at that

          Last month the Law Lords, England's highest court, threw out all but
          three of the 32 original charges of murder, torture and hostage taking.
          The Law Lords reasoned that the only counts on which the general could
          be arrested and held for extradition were three dating from the period
          after Dec. 8, 1988, when the U.N. Torture Convention took effect here
          and torture abroad became a crime punishable in British courts.

          Straw, the top law-enforcement officer in England, said he based his
          decision solely on the law and had not been swayed by any "possible
          effects" that keeping Pinochet under house arrest in England might have
          on the stability of Chile's democracy or British national interests.

          In a lengthy and detailed statement that appeared to anticipate the High
          Court review that Pinochet's lawyers will almost certainly seek, Straw
          justified his decision with specific legal precedents and quotations from

          He said the Spanish request was legally well founded and properly drawn
          up, that the offenses were not "of a political character," that no statutes of
          limitations had run out and that it would not be "unjust or oppressive" to
          expose the general to the charges now.

          He turned aside arguments that the 83-year-old general was unfit to
          stand trial but added, "This question, among others, can be re-examined
          in the light of any developments."

          He said he based his decision on the three charges and did not need to
          rely on the evidence of 46 additional cases from after 1988 that Baltasar
          Garzon, the judge in Madrid, Spain, who brought the original complaint,
          had submitted since the Law Lords most recent ruling.

          Responding to Chilean government arguments that the general should be
          tried in his home country, Straw said he had no extradition request from
          Chile and added, "There is no provision of international law which
          excludes Spain's jurisdiction in this matter."

          Each new step in the extradition procedure is subject to judicial review,
          and the possibility exists that the case will find its way back to the House
          of Lords three additional times. Even after all the appeals were
          exhausted, Straw would have to make a final ruling before Pinochet
          could be taken to Madrid.

          Dr. Michael Byers, an international lawyer and a fellow of Jesus College,
          Oxford, estimated Thursday that the whole process could last up to two

          Pinochet was arrested last Oct. 16 in London and spent succeeding
          months protesting the action on the basis that as a former head of state he
          had sovereign immunity. That view was upheld by the High Court on
          Oct. 28, but reversed, on appeal, by the Law Lords on Nov. 25.

          The application from Garzon charged Pinochet with genocide, murder,
          torture and kidnapping in connection with the death or disappearance of
          more than 3,000 people in the years after he seized power in a coup in