Pinochet's Legacy Reassessed in International Law Lecture Series


The legacy of Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile, was at the heart of an address at Miami Law by Ingrid Wuerth, a law professor and Director of the International Legal Studies Program at Vanderbilt Law School. The event was the third in a series of lectures presented this semester by the International Graduate Law Programs.

Pinochet, notorious for ordering widespread abuses and human rights violations while in power, was arrested in London in 1998 on a warrant issued by Judge Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish Magistrate Judge. The House of Lords held that Pinochet was not entitled to functional immunity, and the case quickly became a media sensation in part "because of the magnitude of the crimes committed" by Pinochet and his followers, according to Professor Wuerth.

"This case was incredibly significant because of the number of people who suffered and died at Pinochet's hands, and because of the number of people around the world who wanted to finally see a former dictator held accountable for the actions that he took and that others took under his direction," said Professor Wuerth, who based her address on her forthcoming article "Pinochet's Legacy Reassessed."

Professor Wuerth began her lecture with a short background on the case and on the customary international law of immunity, and went on to discuss the intricacies of functional immunity.

"Using the case of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and efforts to extradite him, Professor Wuerth provided an extraordinarily lucid and balanced presentation on the recent evolution of state sovereignty, on the one hand, and reduced-immunity, universal jurisdiction claims, on the other," said Professor David Abraham, who teaches several courses at Miami Law, including Property and Immigration and Citizenship Law. "Wuerth showed a deep appreciation for the gains and losses that are part of any significant shift in the legal terrain. In her lecture, as well as in her question and answer session, Wuerth showed why she is a leader in the field."

"Professor Wuerth brought a different prospective to our international law lecture series," said Jessica Carvalho Morris, Director of the International Graduate Law Programs. "The discussion of immunity in the international law context is current and relevant. Professor Wuerth's presentation was thought-provoking, challenging the audience on preconceived ideas."

Miami Law LL.M student Dragan Zeljic was equally impressed. "The lecture was very interesting and on a high academic level," Zeljic said. "Professor Wuerth did a good job explaining the complexity and political influences in this mysterious area of law. It was relevant to the degree I am seeking in U.S. and Transnational Law for Foreign Lawyers here at Miami Law."