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

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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.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-12-01

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