Human right groups welcome Pinochet arrest order

 Human rights campaigners in Britain have welcomed news that an order has been issued for the arrest and trial of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. The general is accused of masterminding the so-called 'Caravan of Death', in which more than 70 political prisoners disappeared shortly after he came to power in a military coup in 1973. General Pinochet faces 177 criminal complaints stemming from alleged human rights violations during his rule. According to an official report, more than 3,000 people died or are missing, presumed dead, following the coup. A friend of Mrs Thatcher, Pinochet returned to Chile this March after being detained in London for 15 months, awaiting a UK decision on whether he should be extradited to Spain to be tried on torture charges. He was eventually allowed to return home after the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, ruled that he was too old and sick to undergo trial. Photographer Carlos Reyes, a member of London-based human rights group Chile Democratico, who hold an annual remembrance service at St Aloysius church in Euston, north London, said many of his countrymen would be dancing in the streets at the news. Reyes, who was himself tortured under the Pinochet regime, said: "Pinochet should be tried and judged for the crimes he committed during so many years of dictatorship. "It will help a lot of people in Chile to come to terms with what happened to them and their families." Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said: "It is an absolute vindication of those of us who campaigned in Europe during the 18 months he was held here," he added. "That allowed the political space to develop in Chile which has led to today's order." Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation that backed moves last year to extradite Pinochet from the UK, said the move could be "extremely significant". "For many years, there have been many layers of impunity preventing justice and the investigation of the crimes that took place during Pinochet's time in office," said spokesman Richard Bunting. "At long last, we might be seeing the beginnings of justice for the people who were killed, tortured and `disappeared' and for their relatives." The director of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture in London, Helen Bamber, said the order will rekindle hope among victims that they might one day see justice done.

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