R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet

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R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Court House of Lords
Full case name R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, Ex Parte Pinochet Ugarte
Decided 25 November 1998
Citation(s) [1998] UKHL 41; 3 W.L.R. 1456 (H.L. 1998)
Case history
Prior action(s) Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, [1999] 38 ILM 68 (Q.B. Div'l Ct. 1998)
Subsequent action(s) R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 2), R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No 3)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Slynn, Lord Hoffmann, Lord Steyn, Lord Nicholls, Lord Lloyd

R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte 3 WLR 1,456 (H.L. 1998), also known as Pinochet I or the Pinochet case, was a controversial House of Lords judgment on whether former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet could claim state immunity from torture allegations made by a Spanish court and therefore evade extradition to Spain. The case is significant in a number of areas including international criminal law, human rights law and the relationship between international law and domestic law.[1] The ruling is also significant as the House of Lords later took the unprecedented decision to overturn the judgment because of the possibility of bias in one of its judges.[2]

Background[edit]

Pinochet was accused by a Spanish judge of torture, a crime under international law which can be prosecuted in any country under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. The Spanish judge faxed an INTERPOL arrest warrant to London and Pinochet was arrested later that evening. Pinochet's lawyers argued that as Pinochet was head of state at the time of the alleged crimes he was immune from the jurisdiction of British courts. The Divisional Court ruled Pinochet had state immunity.

Judgment[edit]

By a 3–2 majority (Lord Nicholls, Lord Hoffmann and Lord Steyn against Lord Slynn and Lord Lloyd) the House of Lords ruled that Pinochet did not have state immunity.

A key passage of the judgment reads:

[T]he development of international law since the Second World War justifies the conclusion that by the time of the 1973 coup d’état, and certainly ever since, international law condemned genocide, torture, hostage taking and crimes against humanity (during an armed conflict or in peace time) as international crimes deserving of punishment. Given this state of international law, it seems to me difficult to maintain that the commission of such high crimes may amount to acts performed in the exercise of the functions of a Head of State.

Subsequent rulings[edit]

The judgment of this case was controversially set aside in R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No. 2) (Pinochet II) on the grounds that there was the possibility of bias.

This resulted in a third case R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, Ex Parte Pinochet Ugarte (No. 3), also known as Pinochet III, which confirmed that Pinochet was not entitled to state immunity but that acts committed outside of British territories could only be prosecuted under national law if committed after the passing of section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

Further reading[edit]

  • Byers, Michael, The Law and Politics of the Pinochet Case, 10 Duke J. of Comp. & Int'l L. 415

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Byers, Michael, The Law and Politics of the Pinochet Case, 10 Duke J. of Comp. & Int'l L. p 416
  2. ^ "UK Politics Pinochet judge under pressure". BBC News. 1999-01-15. Retrieved 2010-05-10. 

External links[edit]