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Call for NZ action in wake of Pinochet case

MEDIA RELEASE

3 March 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Call for NZ action in wake of Pinochet case

In the wake of the UK decision to allow Augusto Pinochet's return to Chile, Amnesty International has called on the New Zealand Government to ensure that it establishes clear procedures for meeting its international obligations if major human rights violators visit the country.

"During the Pinochet case the UK courts confirmed that people accused of crimes such as torture can be prosecuted anywhere in the world. They have also firmly established that former heads of state are not immune from prosecution for such crimes," Amnesty's NZ director Ced Simpson said.

"The New Zealand Government, with the same obligations under the Convention Against Torture, must work to ensure that torturers face justice in New Zealand or that the procedures regarding any request from other countries to extradite a visiting torturer are fair and transparent."

Despite the outcome of the Pinochet case, the fight against impunity for crimes against humanity, such as torture and "disappearance", will continue in Chile and elsewhere in the world, Mr Simpson said.

"The fact that Augusto Pinochet was arrested while travelling abroad -- almost unthinkable just 16 months ago -- has sent a powerful message: no one is above international law, even when national laws protect you from prosecution."

"The international wall of impunity that has sheltered former and current heads of state accused of gross human rights violations started to crumble on the night of 16 October 1998, when Augusto Pinochet was arrested. From that point onwards there was no turning back."

Recent developments clearly point in this direction. A judicial investigation has been initiated in Senegal, at the request of a coalition of human rights groups, against the former President of Chad, Hissein Habré, for alleged crimes under international law, including torture, committed during his 1982-1990 rule.

Slobodan Milosevic, current President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is under an international indictment for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. Others have been convicted by international tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and work is under way to establish the International Criminal Court.

Last month Danish police arrested former Rwandan army captain Innocent Sagahutu and French police seized another suspect to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity brought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

For further information contact:

Ced Simpson BH 0-4-499 3349 AH 0-4-938 0716 mobile 021 371 205

or visit our website at http://www.amnesty.org.nz


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