Chilean exiles' lawyers fight to try Pinochet in UK

Lawyers acting for Chilean exiles and human rights groups are pushing ahead with plans to prosecute General Pinochet in the UK.

Geoffery Bindman told The Lawyer his legal team was seeking consent from the Attorney General to begin a criminal prosecution against the former Chilean dictator, but if consent wasn't forthcoming he would consider taking the Attorney General to a judicial review.

Bindman said he had sought consent from the Attorney General to begin prosecutions several times in the last few weeks, but had been turned down each time for lack of sufficient admissable evidence. After each refusal he had sent more information and in a letter last week the Attorney General said he was considering the latest submission and would provide a response soon. Bindman said if Pinochet was able to be tried in Spain, he should be able to be tried in Britain.

“They have refused on three or four occassions up to now and that encourages us to give him more and more information in the hope that he will change his mind. But the point will come when we will have to consider a judicial review.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office said for either a private or public prosecution to be allowed “there would have to be sufficient evidence and it [the prosecution] would have to be in the public interest”. She said any request for a judicial review would be considered when it arrived.

Fiona McKay of anti-torture group Redress said the prosecutions would be made under the Taking of Hostages Act 1982 and the Criminal Justice Act of 1988, both of which allow for acts committed abroad. She hoped the Attorney General and police would serious consider the prosecution, but it was a fall back position in case the extradition process foundered.

“Based on the UK's obligation under international law to either extradite or prosecute, we would hope that if they don't extradite, they should prosecute.”