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The Impact of Human Rights Law on General International Law$
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Menno T. Kamminga and Martin Scheinin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199565221

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199565221.001.0001

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Impact on the Immunity of States and their Officials

Impact on the Immunity of States and their Officials

(p.151) 8 Impact on the Immunity of States and their Officials
The Impact of Human Rights Law on General International Law

Thilo Rensmann

Oxford University Press

The Pinochet decision of the House of Lords held that the former Chilean head of state Augusto Pinochet did not enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution in Britain. The decision was hailed by many as a landmark case paving the way for the acceptance of a general ‘human rights exception’ to the traditional immunities granted to foreign states and their officials. However, ten years later, the promise of a ‘humanized’ immunity regime, which would enable national courts to prosecute and punish foreign state officials for severe human rights violations and to grant compensation to their victims, does not seem to have been realized. This chapter argues that in the case law that has sprung from the House of Lord's precedent, the initial misunderstanding that Pinochet marked the victory of human rights over traditional immunities is gradually giving way to a more sophisticated approach that attempts to balance, in each individual case, the need for stable inter-state relations on the one hand and the interest of fighting impunity and of providing redress for the victims of serious human rights violations on the other.

Keywords:   human rights, forum, international courts, Augusto Pinochet, immunity regime

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