International human rights treaties and the chilean dictatorship: legal applications and judicial receptions after the fall of the pinochet military regime

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Resumen / Abstract:

The increasing application of international human rights treaties has dramatically changed the transitional justice landscape. For example, the Chilean Supreme Court has applied treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions, as a way to solve legal hurdles and sentence perpetrators for dictatorship-era violations. This paper investigates the judicial-political factors that influenced the growing citation of human rights treaties first by Chilean human rights lawyers and later by the Chilean courts. This paper analyzes when and how the courts began applying treaties in their jurisprudence, and why Chilean post-dictatorship courts eventually shifted to applying human rights treaties. I find that judges and lawyers with experience abroad were more likely to cite treaties given their increased international knowledge base. Similarly, I find that Chilean Courts began to adopt arguments about treaty relevance that had been advanced in international legal decisions against Chile, such as Pinochet’s arrest in London. Accordingly, I argue that the increasing global application of human rights treaties in international courts, regional courts, and transnational justice scenarios explains the relevance, power, and timing of the Chilean Supreme Court’s shift to applying international human rights treaties in its sentencing decisions. This investigation demonstrates how international pressure and international courts influence the way domestic courts apply international law. The Chilean judges’ adoption of international human rights treaties as a way to circumvent legal roadblocks and bring about justice provides an example for other transitional justice situations.


International Human Rights Treaties and the Chilean Dictatorship: Legal Applications and Judicial Receptions after the Fall of the Pinochet Military Regime


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UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, 23, (193)

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