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PUBLIC DECLARATION

We, The Association of Relatives of the Disappeared UK Section declare that today's decision by the Home Secretary Jack Straw to release the ex-dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is a dangerous precedent for the future of human rights.

This adverse decision against the victims of Pinochet's dictatorship is paving the path for impunity not only for Pinochet but also for other ruthless dictators. With this decision they can now mock any judiciary by arguing health reasons. His crimes and those of his men who carried out the killings, torture and disappearance will be covered by impunity.

We have been asking for truth and justice for more than 26 years and to date it has been denied to us. We have been living under permanent torture. We are not guided by revenge -as Pinochet's supporters claim. We are just seeking justice. We demand a fair trial for those acused of human rights crimes and not the brutal retribution which they dealt their victims. We will never abandon our unrenounceable right to know where our husbands, wives, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers and fiancés are. We want to know who murdered them and then disposed of their bodies to hide their crimes.

During the sixteen months that Pinochet was under house arrest in England as the extradition proceedings were developing, we had hope that for the first time in all these years justice would prevail. We had hope that this case would set a valuable precedent for the future of human rights.

However, today's decision tell us that political and economic reasons are paramount at the expense of human rights. The Chilean government has the sole responsibility for this outcome. Its secret negotiations with the governments involved in this case and the pressures put on them has made a mockery of international justice. They gave a false image of democracy, peace and reconciliation with the Round Table Dialogue and the 59 lawsuits against Pinochet. This artificial situation guaranteed his return to Chile.

Pinochet will never face justice in Chile. The 1978 Amnesty Law, the 1980 Constitution and his Senator for Life post provide him with total immunity. Besides, the amendment of the constitution of the 25th January 2000 confers on him the title of Former President of the Republic and thus gives him absolute immunity from prosecution by Chilean Courts.

With his return, Chile will be more divided and the fragile democracy will be increasingly threatened. His political supporters will be empowered. The future of Chile looks more uncertain now.

Today is a very sad day for human rights. This decision threatens the possibility for the world to be a better place.

Association of Relatives of the Disappeared - UK Section
London, 2nd March 2000

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