Pinochet law lord `could not be biased'

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THE LAW LORD who failed to declare his links with a human rights group while sitting in judgment on General Augusto Pinochet was not showing bias, and upheld principles which all reasonable men should support, the House of Lords was told yesterday.

Any revelation by Lord Hoffmann of his association with the charity connected to Amnesty International would have created "a potentially anarchic situation" in which a series of objections could be raised over the make-up of judges' panels, said Alun Jones, QC, for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Jones told the hearing that judges are, and should be, involved in charities, and the principles Lord Hoffmann privately upheld - being opposed to torture and unlawful killings by the state - should meet with the approval of all who uphold the law.

A panel of five law lords is being asked by lawyers for General Pinochet to overturn the Lords' decision that the former Chilean dictator did not have immunity from prosecution.

Lord Hoffmann, a director and chairman of Amnesty's charity arm, Amnesty International Charity Ltd, cast the final and decisive vote in the original three-two ruling.

The chairman of the hearing, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, stated that, if possible, a decision on the case would be given this morning.