Legal legacy of Pinochet's UK arrest

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Ten years ago, on 16 October, UK police officers marched into a London clinic and arrested Chile's former military leader Augusto Pinochet as he lay convalescing from surgery.

His dramatic detention sent shockwaves around the world, producing both euphoria and condemnation. It is still reverberating today.

Lawyers at Human Rights Watch and at the US-based International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) say it contributed to the establishment in 2002 of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has investigated atrocities in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

In Chile, where Pinochet ruled for 17 years, the knock-on effect of that arrest in London was felt again last year in the decision by the Chilean Supreme Court to extradite the former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori to Lima to face human rights charges.
"Pinochet's arrest changed the whole conversation about upholding human rights," said Juan Mendez, president of the ICTJ.

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