Pinochet's lawyers gave to Amnesty

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The Independent Online
THE LAW firm that is seeking to block General Augusto Pinochet's extradition to Spain, on the basis that one of the law lords has links with Amnesty International, is itself a contributor to the human rights pressure group, The Independent can reveal.

The news comes as it emerged that the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, may decide today whether to allow the general's extradition to Spain to face charges of crimes against humanity and announce the decision tomorrow, ahead of Friday's deadline.

City lawyers Kingsley Napley have objected to the Home Secretary about Lord Hoffman, who ruled against the former Chilean dictator, on the ground that his wife, Gillian, is an administrative assistant with Amnesty International.

The pressure group has since stated that Lord Hoffman is also an unpaid director of an affiliated charity. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who ruled in favour of General Pinochet's immunity in the High Court, is also involved with the charity. Colin Nicholls QC,brother of the general's counsel, Clive Nicholls, is a member.

Lord Hoffman is one of theLaw Lords who ruled, on a majority of three to two, that General Pinochet does not, as a former head of state, benefit from immunity on charges of genocide, torture and terrorism.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups made representations at the hearing that the former dictator should face justice.

Kingsley Napley last night confirmed that a donation had been made to Amnesty International. The money is believed to have gone towards the organisation's building fund.

The Independent has learnt that in their submission to the Home Office, General Pinochet's lawyers stated: "The claim to sovereign immunity was rejected by a majority of the House of Lords. Lord Hoffman, who formed part of the majority, should not have heard the appeal. The decision reached by the House of Lords should therefore be reviewed by the Secretary of State and the majority view preferred."

The submission goes on to say: "Given the approach of Amnesty International to this case ... there was a danger of actual or apparent bias.

"Lord Hoffman could not possibly have sat on the appeal if he were married to the prosecutor in Spain, one of the lawyers representing the parties, or the daughter of Senator Pinochet. It is submitted that the fact of his marriage to a member and employee of Amnesty International is an equally obvious case giving rise to a real danger of actual or apparent bias."

It is also pointed out to the Home Office by the general's lawyers that "although Lord Hoffman did not deliver a separate speech [when the Lords gave their judgment] he was vocal during the course of the hearing in expressing his disagreements with the propositions advanced on behalf of the senator."

Lord Hoffman has given rulings opposing Amnesty International's position on other matters. On the judicial committee of the Privy Council, he ruled that a convicted killer in the Caribbean, Trevor Fisher, could be legally executed. The sentence was duly carried out.

Yesterday the Home Office refused to give Geoffrey Bindman, the lawyer acting for Amnesty International, an advance notice of Mr Straw's decision on the extradition.