Crimes, Resistance and Legal Intervention
On 11 September 1973 the democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende was ousted in a Chilean military coup led by junta leader Augusto Pinochet. This marked the beginning of the bloodiest military dictatorship – alongside with the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) – in Latin American history, during which thousands of people were murdered, tortured and kidnapped. Yet even through the years of greatest repression, left-wing parties and the inhabitants of Chile’s shanty towns continued to organize resistance against the regime. After a successful campaign by his opponents, Pinochet met his downfall in a referendum held in 1988, formally marking the end of his dictatorship. But even after the elections in 1989, Pinochet remained the dominant figure in Chilean political life. This changed only much later on when, on 16 October 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London.
On the 40th anniversary of the Chilean military coup and to mark the 15th anniversary of Pinochet’s arrest in London, the organsation ECCHR was hosting a series of events to explore what impact these historic moments had on the global human rights movement. How have these events inspired similar actions in the global struggle for social justice? What effects do they still have today on legal interventions? Is the growing importance of the human rights movement – as Samuel Moyn puts forward in the book ‘The Last Utopia’ – indeed a reaction to the devastating defeat suffered by various left-wing political projects? Legal steps taken in the aftermath of the military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile led to hundreds of court proceedings being carried out in those countries, experiences which serve to demonstrate how a transnationally active human rights movement can successfully rally against impunity.