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The Pinochet Case and Human Rights Progress in Chile: Was Europe a Catalyst, Cause or Inconsequential?


This article assesses the impact, if any, of Spanish and British Court rulings on the Pinochet case on human rights progress in Chilean courts. Chilean judges chafe at the notion that foreign courts exerted any influence on them, arguing that, based solely on Chilean law and the evidence already before them, they were empowered to strip Pinochet of his immunity, and proceeded to do so. Human rights critics allege that the courts had been thoroughly immobilised by the authoritarian legacy to which they were enjoined. No progress at all would have occurred were it not for the dramatic verdicts handed down in British courts. The author contends that change was underfoot in Chile prior to Pinochet's arrest in London, but that Europe set Chile on a faster and steeper trajectory toward justice than would have been possible otherwise. It did so by shaming the Chilean Government into pressuring its own high courts to deliver a modicum of justice to the victims of Pinochet.

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The author thanks Felipe Agüero for constructive comments made on an earlier draft of this article.
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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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