Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Rachel Blair

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Winter 2022

Research Project: Military Justice in Chile: Exploring its Ongoing Violation of the American Convention on Human Rights

Project Description: After 17 years of Augusto Pinochet’s brutal military dictatorship, Chile transitioned to democracy, ratified the American Convention on Human Rights and joined the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights (IAHRS) in 1990. Despite democratic Chile’s commitment to regional human rights standards, Pinochet’s legacy of human rights abuse lingers. This is exemplified by the Chilean military justice system’s ongoing jurisdiction over cases in which military personnel harmed civilians, which violates the Convention’s guarantee of access to competent courts and fair trials. My research explores the following question: how do the combined structural weaknesses of the Chilean judiciary and IAHRS limit the Chilean military justice system’s compliance with the Convention? As many Latin American countries were ruled by military dictatorships and have since ratified the Convention, this research could illuminate tendencies central to understanding and rooting out dictatorial legacies in the region and inform more effective collaboration between the IAHRS and its member states in addressing impunity for human rights abuse. 

What have you learned throughout your research project?

As I was responsible for coming up with my research question, designing the data collection process, and writing a thesis, time management skills and discipline were absolutely key to being successful in this project. With that said, the most important lesson I took away from this experience was learning to be kind to myself and to be flexible enough to adjust my schedule and goals when needed. Giving myself grace and modifying my plans is still challenging for me, but this research process showed me how much more important flexibility is than sticking to the exact plan set out in the beginning. 

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Use all of the resources available to you! Consult with your advisor, the UW scholarship staff, and previous Mary Gates scholars during your application process. This will give you a clear roadmap of what you need to do and help you put your absolute best foot forward!