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Putting the General on Trial


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Putting the General on Trial

The subject of this court-hearing simulation concerns the question of extraditing General Augusto Pinochet to Spain to face charges of crimes that occurred during his military reign in Chile. This case was a revolutionary one for international law and for issues of jurisdiction and immunity. Britain's Law Lords, ruled in 1998 that Pinochet does not enjoy sovereign immunity and that he could face some charges brought against him by a Spanish prosecutor.

The main purposes of this simulation are to understand the range of legal issues in this case as well as to gain an appreciation for its unprecedented nature and the ambiguity of this area of international law. As the first Economist article in our reading states, the hearing before the Law Lords "turned into a wide-ranging legal debate'' in which 55 attorneys participated. We will aim to approach this simulation with the same spirit of wide-ranging debate and participation by assigning everyone in section to a specific courtroom role. It is important to understand and articulate the position and some of the likely arguments made by your assigned role.

The specific question in this simulation is whether Pinochet should be extradited to Spain. Some of the relevant factors to consider include sovereign immunity and jurisdiction (i.e. who has the authority to prosecute Pinochet?). In addition, you may want to consider this case's implications for international law, for the development of universal human rights, and for world politics. In crafting your arguments, it is encouraged to think about some of the positive and negative consequences of the Pinochet case.

This "court hearing'' will take place shortly after Pinochet's arrest in 1998. Assume this is the first time the Law Lords have considered the case. It is up to the student judges to decide whether Pinochet should be extradited. The hearing is not intended to be a trial that determines Pinochet's guilt or innocence. However, the question of his role in political violence may be deemed relevant to certain aspects of this debate. The question of Pinochet's health is of secondary concern to this debate and is an issue that will be considered at the end of the session by the British Home Secretary. The Home Secretary is the final arbiter of the extradition question and his decision to send Pinochet to Spain or release him is ultimately a political one.

Students will be expected to use principles of international law from the course material to bolster their arguments and are encouraged to consult outside sources and material. Extensive research is not necessary.

Every one should have already been assigned a role for the simulation. Contact your TF if you have not yet been assigned to a role or if you have any questions. Students assigned to the same group are encouraged to meet outside of class to coordinate their legal strategy. Judges will be rendering individual decisions on the case, and therefore do not have to meet before next week's section. Students have been assigned to the following groups:

Law Lords:

The Law Lords will direct proceedings and have the prerogative to ask questions of lawyers during and after their statements. The judges will vote on the extradition question at the end of the hearing and make statements justifying their votes. Judges should go into the hearing with an open mind, but it is important for them to be well grounded in the legal issues at stake. These students should also be willing to stop presentations to ask for clarification or to tease out the reasoning employed by the advocates.



Pinochet's defense lawyers:

Pinochet's lawyers will present a legal defense and argue against his extradition to Spain.



Spanish prosecutors:

The Spanish prosecutors in this hearing will present justifications for Pinochet's extradition to Spain and why the General should be tried in Spain for crimes committed in Chile.



Chilean government lawyers

The Chilean government attorneys will make arguments, especially from their domestic perspective, as to why Pinochet should not be extradited to Spain.



Human Rights attorneys:

The human rights attorneys will provide legal arguments from a human rights perspective as to why Pinochet should be extradited.



Format of the Hearing:

This is an approximation of the time allotted to each group. The Law Lords will have the prerogative to ask questions during and after each group's testimony. It is up to each group to decide how to divide the work and speaking time. Some groups may want to assign some members to make the arguments and the other members to be responsible for answering questions from the Law Lords.





  1. • The Law Lords open the hearing.

  2. • Opening arguments by Spanish prosecutors (5-7 minutes)

  3. • Opening arguments by Pinochet lawyers (5-7 minutes)

  4. • Additional questions by Law Lords (5-7 minutes)

  5. • Testimony by Chilean government (5-7 minutes)

  6. • Testimony by human rights attorneys (5-7 minutes)

  7. • Additional questions by Law Lords. (5 minutes)

  8. • Closing statements/rebuttals by Pinochet's lawyers and Spanish prosecutors (5 minutes each side)

• 5 minute recess for judges to contemplate their votes



• The Law Lords cast their vote and make statements justifying their individual decision on the extradition issue. (15 minutes)

• The Home Secretary explains his/her decision regarding extradition. (3-5 minutes)


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