Abstract

In October 1998 the former military dictator of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet, was arrested in London and forced to face extradition proceedings to Spain, where a Spanish judge threatened to put him on trial for human rights violations. Pinochet's arrest outraged the armed forces and conservative sectors in Chile, while it elated human rights defenders and Chileans on the left. For both groups Pinochet's arrest opened up the possibility that the retired general would be forced to answer to accusations about the conduct of his regime. This article analyzes the impact of Pinochet's arrest and argues that the subsequent reinvigoration of human rights policy in Chile was as much the result of domestic changes within Chile as it was a consequence of actions taken by international actors. The article analyzes the evolution of human rights policy in Chile before, during, and after Pinochet's arrest and demonstrates that government policy reflected the changing interplay among competing interests. Even prior to Pinochet's arrest, the government took advantage of growing pragmatism on the right and opportunities for institutional reform in order to transform the legal climate and open the door for a new jurisprudence that reinterpreted how and when amnesty should be applied. While the government went on to protest Pinochet's detention, it used the fact of international judicial intervention to move even further toward creating conditions in Chile that would allow Pinochet to be tried at home rather than abroad. All in all, the article offers insights into the confluence of domestic and international influences in human rights policy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1085-794X
Print ISSN
0275-0392
Pages
pp. 207-244
Launched on MUSE
2006-02-10
Open Access
No
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