Judging from a Guilty Conscience: The Chilean Judiciary's Human Rights Turn

Law & Social Inquiry Vol. 35, No. 1, Winter 2010

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1084

38 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2009 Last revised: 26 Feb 2010

Alexandra Valeria Huneeus

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: October 20, 2009

Abstract

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.

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

Suggested Citation

Huneeus, Alexandra Valeria, Judging from a Guilty Conscience: The Chilean Judiciary's Human Rights Turn (October 20, 2009). Law & Social Inquiry Vol. 35, No. 1, Winter 2010; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1084. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1441303

Alexandra Valeria Huneeus (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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