Agents of anti-politics: Courts in pinochet's Chile

Lisa Hilbink

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

21 Scopus citations


On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet helped lead the overthrow of one of Latin America's most democratic regimes. As part of the coup, Chile's military leaders bombed the presidential palace, shut down the Congress, banned political parties, and purged the state bureaucracy. They left the courts, however, completely untouched. Pledging their commitment to judicial independence, the generals kept intact the long-standing system of judicial appointment, evaluation, discipline, and promotion, which placed primary control in the hands of the Supreme Court, and refrained from dictating or otherwise manipulating judicial decisions. The 1925 constitution, which provided a host of liberal and democratic guarantees, remained formally in effect, though the junta gradually (and sometimes retroactively or secretly) supplanted many of these with their own decree-laws, and later, their own constitution. Throughout, the military government insisted it was acting in the name of the rule of law, though its approach violated the most basic principles of that concept.Despite the formal independence they enjoyed, however, and the resources that the country's legal texts and traditions provided them, Chilean courts never sought to challenge the undemocratic, illiberal, and antilegal policies of the military government. Indeed, they cooperated fully with the authoritarian regime, granting it a mantle of legitimacy not only during the seventeen years of dictatorship, but well beyond the transition back to formal democracy in 1990 (see Hilbink 2007: Ch. 5).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRule by Law
Subtitle of host publicationThe Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9780511814822
ISBN (Print)9780521895903
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

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