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Regina v. Bartle and Commissioner of Police, Ex parte Pinochet

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. U.K. House of Lords, 2 W.L.R. 827, 38 LLM. 581 (1999).

    Brief Fact Summary. Siting his status as a former head of state, Pinochet (D) claimed that he was immune from prosecution.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The provision of the Torture Convention is not consistent with the notion of continued immunity for former head of states.


    Facts. Pinochet (D), the former head of state of Chile, was considered by the House of Lords (P) to have contravened the provisions of the Torture Convention. This convention became law on the 8th of December 1988 and Chile, Spain and the United Kingdom were all parties to it. But Pinochet (D), siting the fact that he was a former head of state, he was immune under the principle of international law.


    Issue. Is the provision of the Torture Convention consistent with the notion of continued immunity for former head of states?


    Held. Yes. The provision of the Torture Convention is not consistent with the notion of continued immunity for former head of states. Pinochet (D) was not acting in any capacity that gives rise to immunity if as alleged; he masterminded and authorized torture after the 8th of December 1988 because these acts clearly contravene international law. Hence, the torture proceedings brought against the defendant should only continue on the allegation that torture in pursuance of a conspiracy to commit torture was being committed by the defendant after he lost his immunity in December 1988.


    Discussion. Under common law, a former head of state enjoys immunity for official acts done while in office, this implies that the court also took cognizance of common law in this case. Ensuring that no safe haven is available to torturers is the primary aim of the Torture Convention.



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