José Zalaquett

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José "Pepe" Zalaquett Daher (born 10 March 1942) is a Chilean lawyer, renowned for his work in the defence of human rights during the de facto regime that governed Chile under General Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990.

José Zalaquett, President of the IACHR, 2004–05
Photo: J. Freitas/ABr

The coup d'état and the Pro Paz Committee[edit]

José Zalaquett graduated from the law school of the University of Chile in 1967.

Following the coup d'état of 11 September 1973, he became involved with the Comité Pro Paz [es], a non-governmental organization for human rights established by various Christian churches and other religious organizations[1] on the initiative of Roman Catholic Cardenal Raúl Silva Henríquez. Serving as the director of its legal department from late 1973 until the committee was wound up in December 1975, his job was to direct and coordinate the efforts of internal and external lawyers in defending human rights. This entailed work in three broad areas:

  • Serving as counsel for defendants accused by the military courts (consejos de guerra).
  • Filing for constitutional relief and habeas corpus remedies (amparo) on behalf of detainees held by the military.
  • Attempting to conduct investigations into the whereabouts of detainees.

On 15 November 1975, agents of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) arrested José Zalaquett and took him to the Tres Álamos detention centre. He was released on 30 January 1976, arrested again on 5 April, and sent into exile on 12 April. He did not return to Chile until 1986.

During his years abroad, he served as the head of the international executive committee of Amnesty International from 1979 to 1982.

Restoration of democracy[edit]

During Chile's transition to democracy, Zalaquett was appointed by President Patricio Aylwin to serve on the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a truth commission set up in 1990 to investigate human rights violations committed by the military regime. In 1999 and 2000 he served on the dialogue panel (mesa de diálogo) on human rights between members of the armed forces and human rights lawyers.

From 2002 to 2005 he served as a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, including a stint as its president in 2004-05.

Academic work and awards[edit]

José Zalaquett has taught law at the University of Chile, and lectures there in international human rights law and in ethics and government. He holds Honoris Causa doctorates in law from the University of Notre Dame and City University of New York (United States). He is a member of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists and member of the board of the International Centre for Transitional Justice.

Along with Cecilia Medina, a Chilean judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Zalaquett currently directs the Human Rights Centre at the University of Chile's law school.

In 1994 UNESCO awarded him that year's Prize for Human Rights Education.

In 2003 he was awarded Chile's National Prize for Humanities and Social Sciences for his "contribution to the protection of the rights of individuals and of ethics in politics".[2] In August 2006, Santiago's Alberto Hurtado University gave him the San Alberto Hurtado Medal in recognition of his human rights work.[3] He is patron of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

On November 12, 2009, in a ceremony at the Palacio de la Moneda was given "The Notre Dame Prize", from the University of Notre Dame, that recognizes "the efforts of visionary leaders in Latin America to promote the welfare of the region by strengthening democracy and improving the quality of life of its citizens ".[4]

From 2014 to date, is conducting free online courses on Human Rights at the MOOC Chile project,[5] from the Ford Foundation and the Universidad Diego Portales.



  1. ^ Dinges, John (21 August 2012) [1st pub. 2004: New Press]. The Condor Years: How Pinochet And His Allies Brought Terrorism To Three Continents. New Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-59558-902-6. OCLC 1027616349. Retrieved 19 September 2018. The Catholic Church had joined with other religious organizations to create the first human rights organization, the Peace Committee (Comité Pro Paz), and its internal reports carefully documented arrests, disappearances, executions, and prison populations.
  2. ^ Universidad de Chile press release
  3. ^ Universidad Alberto Hurtado list of San Alberto Hurtado Medal award winners
  4. ^ El abogado de derechos humanos recibió en La Moneda The Notre Dame Prize, galardón que reconoce los esfuerzos de líderes visionarios en América Latina Archived 2012-06-29 at, La Nación, Viernes 13 de noviembre de 2009
  5. ^ MOOC Chile, free Human Rights courses online


The earliest version of this article was translated, with minor adaptations, from the corresponding article on the Spanish-language Wikipedia.

External links[edit]