Britain Recognized Pinochet's Junta
Jan. 22, 1999
LONDON (AP) _ Britain recognized Gen. Augusto Pinochet's military junta 11 days after he seized power in 1973, the Foreign Office said in response to Spanish attempts to undermine the former Chilean dictator's claim to immunity.
Pinochet was arrested in a London hospital Oct. 16 on a Spanish warrant accusing him of ordering the murders, kidnapping and torture of Chileans, Spaniards and others throughout his 17-year regime.
The 83-year-old general's lawyers insist any such acts would be protected under British law, which provides immunity for heads of state.
But lawyers for Britain and Spain argued this week before the House of Lords, Britain's highest court, that some acts were committed after he seized power but before he officially was recognized as Chile's leader.
In a letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the Foreign Office told the court that, at the time, it had ``no practice of according separate or express recognition to heads of state.''
It added, however, that Britain recognized Pinochet's government on Sept. 22, 1973, 11 days after the Sept. 11 coup, ``through the medium of a diplomatic note from the British Embassy responding to a note from the (Chilean) Ministry of Foreign Affairs the day after the coup.''
The letter by Maurice Dalton, the Foreign Office's head of protocol, was sent to the seven-judge tribunal considering whether to uphold a Nov. 28 High Court decision quashing Pinochet's arrest on the grounds he is entitled to immunity.
An official Chilean government report says 3,197 people were killed or disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police after he toppled elected Marxist Salvador Allende.
The hearing in the House of Lords resumes Monday.