Judging from a Guilty Conscience: The Chilean Judiciary's Human Rights Turn
Alexandra Valeria Huneeus
University of Wisconsin Law School
October 20, 2009
Law & Social Inquiry Vol. 35, No. 1, Winter 2010
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1084
Since the detention of General Pinochet in London in 1998 on charges of crimes against humanity, Chile’s judges have sentenced more former officials of the military regime for human rights violations than judges of any other country in Latin America. This article argues that the prosecutorial turn reflects the judiciary’s attempt to atone for its complicity with the dictatorship. The London arrest created pressure for prosecution of Pinochet-era human rights violations; but it is the contest over the judiciary’s legacy, as an important piece of postauthoritarian memory struggles, that explains why Chile’s notoriously illiberal judiciary ceded to that pressure. By reconceptualizing judicial culture as contested, heterogeneous, and dynamic, this article opens the door to richer understandings of judicial politics, transitional justice, and the reception of international human rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: human rights, judicial politics, Latin America, transitional justice, Chile, judges, trials of atonement, redemption, crimes against humanity, amnesty, Pinochet, prosecution
JEL Classification: K33, K14, K39, K40, K41, Z00
Date posted: July 31, 2009 ; Last revised: February 26, 2010
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