Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

17 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether Irish citizens were among the thousands killed, tortured or who disappeared under the Pinochet regime in Chile; and Ireland's views on his arrest in the United Kingdom. [22034/98]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

56 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the EU General Affairs Council discussed the request for the extradition of General Pinochet from the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22072/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 56 together.

I believe, in general, that any allegations of serious human rights abuses should be investigated fully. However, the question of the extradition of General Pinochet from Britain to Spain and that of the jurisdiction of Spanish or other courts in prosecuting him are primarily judicial issues. Accordingly, this matter was not on the agenda of the General Affairs Council on 26 October and no discussions took place at that meeting.
As regard the question of whether Irish citizens were victims of killings, disappearances of torture in Chile during the military dictatorship led by General Pinochet from 1973 to 1990, I am not aware of any Irish victims.
On 13 October, Spanish judicial authorities filed a petition with the British authorities seeking to question General Pinochet in the United Kingdom in the course of investigations into serious human rights violations committed against Spanish citizens in Chile during the period of the military dictatorship. They also wished to question him in relation to crimes against people of several nationalities during the so-called Operation Condor. This was a mechanism, co-ordinated by the Chilean secret police to co-operate in the tracking down of dissidents in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. General Pinochet was issued with an arrest warrant on 16 October when the Spanish investigating judges made clear their intention to seek his extradition to Spain. He was placed under guard at the London clinic where he was receiving medical treatment.
On 28 October the High Court in London found in favour of General Pinochet's claim against his arrest, ruling that, as a Head Of State at the time of the alleged offences, he was immune from prosecution. I understand that the Crown Prosecution Service is appealing the decision to the House of Lords, which began hearing the case earlier this week.
Legal proceedings have also been continuing in Spain. Both Britain and Spain have made clear that decisions will be taken by their judicial authorities. In Britain, the issue is the legality of General Pinochet's arrest. In Spain, it has been whether the investigating judge, Mr. Baltasar Garzon, has jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed outside Spain by a non-Spanish national. Pending resolution of these matters, I understand that no formal request to extradite him has been issued by the Spanish authorities.
Abuses of human rights in any country are of concern to the entire international community. Throughout the years of the Pinochet dictatorship, Ireland strongly condemned the violations of human rights carried out by the regime. We expressed sympathy with the victims of those violations and we accepted Chilean refugees into Ireland. While I believe that the perpetrators of all human rights abuses should be brought to justice, this can only be done in accordance with the jurisdiction and laws of the countries concerned, or within the framework of specific international legal instruments.