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Switzerland urged not to drop request to extradite Pinochet

Human rights groups in Switzerland are calling on the government not to abandon its request for the extradition of Chile's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, after Britain said Pinochet was unfit to stand trial.

This content was published on January 12, 2000 - 23:25

Human rights groups in Switzerland are calling on the government to reactivate its request for the extradition of Chile's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, after Britain said Pinochet was unfit to stand trial. The British government has given all parties and countries involved in the case seven days to submit arguments or appeals.

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists said it wanted to see Pinochet tried for crimes against humanity. It said it did not matter if the trial took place in Spain, Switzerland, Chile, or any of the other countries which have filed a request for the general's extradition.

Switzerland demanded his extradition after a Geneva prosecutor filed charges relating to the murder of a Swiss-Chilean dual national by Chile's secret service during Pinochet's reign. Switzerland later said Spain's request took precedence.

The ICJ said it regretted Britain's decision not to send Pinochet to Spain on grounds he is not fit to stand trial. However, the organisation said the decision based on medical grounds could not be challenged according to international law. "The overriding principle of confidentiality has to be respected", said ICJ spokesman, Nicolas Bovay.

Bovay stressed that Britain's efforts - arresting Pinochet and ruling that he is not immune from prosecution - represented a significant advance "jurisprudentially and symbolically". He said, "the formal recognition of his guilt will never go away".

The Swiss branch of Amnesty International has also called for Switzerland to refile its request for extradition. It called into question the impartiality of the medical exam, saying that prosecutors in Spain, who filed the initial extradition request, were not allowed to see the results of the test.

The Swiss government has not yet responded to Britain's decision. A federal police spokesman said Switzerland's extradition request was theoretically still valid.

Staff and wire reports

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