Law lords told of Pinochet atrocities

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The Independent Online
GRUESOME DETAILS of the murders and torture methods allegedly used during the 17-year reign of the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet were outlined in London by the Spanish government yesterday.

The allegations includedhostage-taking, electrocution, rape, forced cannibalism and incest. They emerged on the second day of the hearing by seven law lords that will determine whether the 83-year-old general has immunity from arrest and potential extradition to Spain.

Alun Jones QC, for the Spanish government, told the law lords that international conventions prohibiting human rights violations were based firmly on the notion of individual responsibility. "It must be that no matter who you are, whether a head of state, a government official or a public official, you have individual, personal responsibility in respect of a category of crimes recognised internationally as particularly odious, such as genocide, torture, and taking hostages," he said.

"Somewhere a line has to be drawn between actions which are the functions of a head of state, and those which are not."

Mr Jones told the law lords only a limited number of a head of state's functions - state visits, signing treaties, and the sending and receiving of diplomats - were regarded as attracting immunity under international law. If countries chose to give their head of state additional powers, then those were not recognised as meriting any kind of immunity.

The chairman of the law lords' panel, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, indicated that the court would seek a certificate from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to make clear when the UK recognised General Pinochet as head of state.

The panel considered whether to ask for a certificate overnight. Lord Browne-Wilkinson said: "We thought it desirable to have the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's view if they are able to give it. It may or may not be vital, but it would be helpful."

The law lords were earlier told that some of the general's 4,000 alleged victims were tortured for years. Rape and buggery, sometimes of children, not only extracted useful information from victims but also terrified potential opponents, it was claimed.

In October 1976, when he was the commander in chief of the Chilean army, General Pinochet allegedly tortured Jose Marcelino Gonzalez Malpu by applying electric current to his genitals, shoulders and ankles and pretending to shoot in front of him his mother, who was captured and stripped naked.

Another victim, Pedro Hugo Arellano Carvajal, was allegedly forced to play Russian roulette. A priest, Miguel Woodward, was allegedly given electric shocks. His arms werebroken with a hammer and he was beaten and left to die.

General Pinochet's supporters issued a statement yesterday claiming he had saved Chile from a Marxist regime and blamed "left-wing propaganda" for "distorting history". Robin Harris, a senior aide to Baroness Thatcher, published a pamphlet claiming the general has been the victim of "a politically inspired kidnap".

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