Pinochet Case

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THE LAW AND POLITICS OF THE PINOCHET CASE
MICHAEL BYERS*
[T]his sovereign authority which is a State’s own right, does not at present have an absolute character, not even in the internal order, due to the international atmosphere reigning in the world. When super-states and international organizations appeared, the field of action of the State’s power became more and more limited, due to agreements and treaties that are subscribed in the international arena. Multiple obligations and restrictions that nations contracted with each other and with international organizations, have left them virtually without sovereign liberty. 1 Augusto Pinochet Ugarte

I. INTRODUCTION On a Friday evening in October 1998, General Augusto Pinochet, the eighty-two year old former general and dictator of Chile, was arrested in London by the Metropolitan Police at the request of a Spanish magistrate. Thus began a saga with profound implications for the substance, enforcement, and public perception of international law. The Pinochet case2 involved—and will have a significant impact
Copyright © 2000 by Michael Byers. * Associate Professor, Duke University School of Law; formerly a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford and an adviser to the coalition of human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Redress Trust, Association of the Families of Disappeared Prisoners) that intervened before the House of Lords in the Pinochet case. Some of the information in this essay is drawn from my own recollections, and is therefore unsupported by citations. I am grateful to the participants in a workshop on “Persuasion and Norms in International Relations,” held at Duke University on January 21 and 22, 2000, for their insightful comments. 1. AUGUSTO PINOCHET UGARTE, INTRODUCTION TO GEOPOLITICS 147 (1968). At the time the book was published, Pinochet was teaching at Chile’s Army War Academy. This passage was drawn to my attention by James

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