Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 August 2009
When Augusto Pinochet, the former head of state of Chile, died in 2006, he left a dual legacy. There were the hundreds of criminal complaints filed against him, and thousands more cases of people dead and disappeared under his rule, for all of which he would never be tried or convicted. Yet Pinochet also was a symbol of a different legacy. His indictment by a Spanish court on human rights–related charges, the extradition proceedings in the United Kingdom establishing that former heads of state were not immune from extradition for torture, and the subsequent Chilean Supreme Court proceedings stripping him of his parliamentary immunity – all these events demonstrated that heads of state, at least in the Latin American context, were no longer beyond the reach of the courts. In fact, Pinochet was one of at least eight Latin American heads of state then under investigation or on trial for human rights violations. Another dozen or so ex-presidents have been investigated, indicted, or convicted of corruption-related crimes. A couple of names appear on both human rights- and corruption-related lists.
This chapter looks at the increase in criminal investigations and prosecutions of heads of state and ex–heads of state in Latin America for both human rights and corruption crimes.