Jurists back freeing of Argentine

Britain had no alternative when it freed Capt. Alfredo Astiz, an International Commission of Jurists study concluded.

Captain Astiz was reportedly in charge of some intelligence operations in Argentina and allegedly tortured civilians at the Navy Mechanics' School, set up after the military took power in Argentina. The Swedish government seeks his extradition for participation in the disappearance of a Swedish woman in Argentina. The French government wants to question him on the disappearance of two French nationals in there.

The review, published by the Geneva-based independent body of distinguished international lawyers, reported that it is doubtful if British courts would accept that torture is now recognized as a crime under international law. As a prisoner of war he was entitled to protection under the Geneva war conventions and was repatriated like other captured men, the review noted.

Captain Astiz was detained by British forces in April when they retook the Falklands dependency of South Georgia from Argentine troops. He was taken to Britain but later freed.

A draft United Nations convention against torture still under discussion includes an article that could have allowed the British to put Captain Astiz on trial, the commission said. ''It is perhaps significant that Argentina is one of the countries which is raising objections to this article,'' the review added.

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