Chile: a time of reckoning, human rights and the judiciary
In 1978, the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers was created with the aim of promoting judicial and legal independence throughout the world as a prerequisite for the legal protection for human rights.
Since then, the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has taken up the case of Chile as it exemplified how these concepts could be abused. As part of its protection efforts, the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers organized support for Chilean jurists who have been harassed or persecuted.
Indeed, during the legacy of oppression, the role of the judiciary constituted a cause of concern to the ICJ. Motivated by anger against what it perceived as an interference in the judicial process by the government of Salvador Allende, the judiciary supported the coup of General Pinochet.
Interpreting “independence” as separation without accountability between the Executive and the Judicial Powers, the majority of judges silently watched as unconstitutional decrees were being enacted and gross violations of human rights were being committed. Guarding their vision of “independence”, they refused to review the actions of the military.
Hence the judiciary lost its role as a protector of justice and victims of human rights violations in Chile had no legal remedy. As organizations upholding the Rule of Law, the legal protection of human rights and the independence of the judiciary, the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers is firm in their belief that gross violations of human rights should not go unpunished.
Indeed, impunity violates the basic principles of human rights and justice. Thus ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers decided to focus on Chile as a case study on how countries in transition to democracy are dealing with the legacy of oppression.
This study was carried out by Mr. Sébastian Brett, a writer on human rights, who has been a resident of Santiago since 1989. Mr. Brett conducted the research from March 1990 until September 1991, when the main body of the report was completed. Events since that date are covered in the Epilogue.
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