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Prosecuting Pinochet : the role of social movements in political change Major, Flavie


This thesis analyses the Pinochet case -the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London with a request for extradition to Spain to be tried for his responsibility in the torture and death of numerous individuals during his term in power, from 1973 to 1990— in its relation to human rights social movements and advocacy groups. Building on Sydney Tarrow's social movements theory and a social constructivist framework for the understanding of change in the international sphere, I argue that the Pinochet case can be seen as both a cause and a consequence of human rights social movements activity. Pinochet's arrest served on the one hand as what Tarrow calls a political opportunity for human rights social actors to get mobilized and participate in the transformations occurring in Chile. It created changes in the political and judicial spheres of power which were until then very closed to their demands for truth and justice in the cases of unresolved human rights crimes. Since the 1990 democratic transition, and until the extra-territorial arrest of Pinochet, the military junta had remained very influential in Chile and had never been put under judicial scrutiny for human rights violations perpetrated during the dictatorship. Yet on the other hand, human rights social movements —increasingly transnational in their organization and activity— have contributed in the last half of the 20th century to the building of an international human rights regime which made Pinochet's arrest possible. I use a social constructivist framework to analyse the role of social movements as initiators of international normative change. By introducing norms and ideas about the need to protect human rights across borders, human rights social actors have helped to reshape the shared understanding of state sovereignty and national interest among international actors as to encompass the idea of human rights. They have contributed to set in place the legal tools which allowed the extra-territorial prosecution of a former dictator. Social movements theory and social constructivism are combined in this study to analyse the power of social movements in the process of political change. They illustrate how, in the Pinochet case, social movements contributed to create the opportunity which they used for further mobilization and activism.

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