Recent developments in, and views on, the many courts changing our world.

Chile/Transitional Justice: Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been placed under house arrest by a Chilean judge on charges including: murder, kidnapping, and torture of political prisoners.

Pinochet has been charged with crimes that were committed against prisoners in the Villa Grimaldi Prison. Between 1974 and 177, Villa Grimaldi was the site of unspeakable cruelty against thousands of prisoners. Among those held and tortured at Villa Grimaldi was Chile’s current president, Michelle Bachelet.

During Pinochet’s bloody rule, 3,000 Chileans were killed, and 28,000 tortured.

The Chilean judge is allowing Pinochet to remain at home, instead of being sent to jail to await trial, because of his advanced age and poor health.

It is a testament to how far Chile has come that it will extend to Pinochet the mercy he denied tens of thousands of his fellow Chileans, living and dead.

Chile/Inter-American Court of Human Rights: As much as Chile should be commended for how much it has improved its legal system, it still has problems, poor treatment of sexual minorities being one.

Chile/Inter-American Court of Human Rights: A recent ruling by the IACHR, the independent court of the Organization of American States, has implications for the United States, and its media in particular. In a case brought to the Court by Chilean environmental activists, the IACHR ruled that citizens have a right to access government information with few exceptions. The ruling was unanimous and stated that: “in a democratic society it is indispensable that state authorities are governed by the principle of maximum disclosure, which establishes the presumption that all information should be accessible, subject to a restricted system of exceptions.” The precedent of this sweeping ruling by the IACHR affects the United States because we have seen dramatically reduced media access to government information in recent years, since in the beginning of the War on Terror, and especially since the start of the Iraq War. I should note that all IACHR rulings are non-binding on OAS member states. It’s not the ECHR, unfortunately.

Turkey/European Court of Human Rights: Turkey lost three cases in the ECHR involving police brutality, in one case against a 12-year-old boy accused of stealing. The victims will now be compensated for their suffering.

Russia/ European Court of Human Rights: The ECHR is going to expand its staff by ten percent, partly because Russians are filing so many more cases than citizens of any of the other 46 member states of the Council of Europe.

Russia: number one for human rights violations in Europe. Not exactly the first place title most countries aspire to.

Look for more from me on Russia and the ECHR soon.

Uganda/International Criminal Court: A current piece of commentary from The Monitor (Kampala) discusses the role that the ICC is playing, and should play in the peace process in Northern Uganda, and how the UN Security Council may end up getting involved. Food for thought.

Una Hardester, Senior Political Analyst

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