The landmark case pioneered the human rights application of a previously little-used federal statute, the Alien Tort Claims Act , which gives foreign nationals the right to sue for wrongful actions that violate international law. On appeal, the circuit reversed, recognizing that foreign nationals who are victims of international human rights violations may sue their malfeasors in federal court for civil redress, even for acts that occurred abroad, so long as the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The court ruled that freedom from torture is guaranteed under customary international law. This decision provides a critical forum for human rights violations. The Center for Constitutional Rights CCR attorneys had briefed the meaning of international law in view of the post-Nuremberg emergence of an international law of human rights applicable to individuals as well as states.
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Washington, D. The answer is simple: The authority lies in the grant conferred upon the judicial power, in the first clause of Sec. In the words of Judge Lord, in Valanga v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company E.
It thus functions as an independent grant of federal jurisdiction in situations where the conduct of the parties so offends the standards of conduct underpinning international relations that it can be considered to be a violation of the law of nations.
In such a capacity and unencumbered with minimal requisite jurisdictional amounts as found in the diversity of citizenship grant of jurisdiction 28 U. An examination of the relatively few cases decided under Sec. Professor Moore lists Sec. If, then, there is no inherent defect in Sec. As to the first, there is no controversy between the parties. As to the second, defendant includes, on p. Clift, F. Vencap, Ltd.
It is doubtful whether the two-part definition of the phrase "in violation of the law of nations", enunciated by Judge Van Dusen in Lopes v. Reederei Richard Schroder, F. It is noteworthy that Judge Van Dusen himself, on p. International Term, Operating Co. For as long as human beings have been in contact with each other on this earth, they have sought to formulate a set of principles or norms, which, depending upon the level of ambition of the framers, would be regarded as the minimum acceptable, or the maximum desirable, standard of human behavior.
Following the rise and fall of Nazism and Fascism, the Allied powers organized a series of war crimes trials, of which the Nuremberg trials were only the most spectacular part. These trials introduced into the law of nations new principles of personal accountability and of collective international responsibility for and jurisdiction over the grossest kinds of human rights violations. Shortly thereafter, these principles made their way into the United Nations Charter and, primarily under the impetus of Mrs.
In the last three decades, a veritable flurry of conventions, treaties and declarations has firmly enshrined in international law the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment. A natural consequence of this development is that the level of domestic performance in the field of human rights has become one of the touchstones of relations between nations.
The notion that human rights should serve as a central tenet of U. Since then, the treatment of foreign nationals by their own governments has emerged as an important factor in U. See Human Rights and U. S Policy Issue, No. International law serves as the source of this policy. This view was lucidly expressed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Schneider, in testimony before Congress in October We have teased our actions on our obligations under the United Nations Charter and other international commitments, on our responsibilities under domestic law, and on our belief that the people of this country want a foreign policy that is in accord with our values.
We believe that a foreign policy that fails to reflect those values will not receive, nor deserve, the support of the American people. To those who argue that our concern for the human rights of people in other lands constitutes intervention, we say look to the Charter of the United Nations, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the Helsinki Final Act, to the Declaration Against Torture adopted by the United Nations in , and to similar regional instruments and resolutions.
The denial of internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms is a matter of international concern. Human Rights and U. During the past few years Congress has passed legislation to limit economic and military assistance to countries which violate internationally recognized human rights standards.
Poreign Policy, Georgia Journal of Int. Law, v. While Congress has not come forward with a specific definition of human rights, the legislation it has enacted relies on language that is frequently used in United Nations resolutions: Consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recocnized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person.
The International Security Assistance and Arms Control Act of also relies on criteria and standards that have been established by the international community.
This act also declares that it is the policy of the United States. To this end, a principal goal of the foreign policy of the United States is to promote the increased observance of internationally recognized human rights by all countries.
Relations between the United States and numerous other nations have been directly affected by the incorporation of international standards of human rights into our foreign policy. Relations between the United States and a host of other nations, including Brazil, Chile, the Soviet Union, Rhodesia Zimbabwe , South Africa and the Philippines have also been affected by what has become a "standard rule and custom" in both U.
Id All of these rights were, according to the complaint, violated by defendant Pena-Irala. Indeed, as this case proceeds, plaintiffs are confident that the developing record will show that the murder of Joelito Filartiga and its conseauences have directly and seriously affected relations between Paraguay and the United States and are continuing to do so.
For confirmation of the proposition that torture, which is the central tort alleged by plaintiffs, is a violation of the law of nations, they respectfully refer this Court to the respective affidavits of Professors Richard Anderson Falk, Thomas M. Franck, Richard L. Lillich and Llyres S. MacDougal, all emminent authorities in the field of international law. Kirkpatrick U.
Modarelli F. Gulf Oil Corporation v. Gilbert U. It would be completely inappropriate for this court to decline jurisdiction on the ground of forum non conveniens when plaintiffs have moved forward in this Court because it alone offers the opportunity of a fair and just hearing of the merits of their complaint.
There is no precise formula for the Court to determine whether to grant or deny dismissal under forum non conveniens. While issues of convenience, such as ease of access to sources of proof are relevant, "the more important question is whether the relinquishment of jurisdiction would best serve the ends of justice".
Mobil Tankers Co. Mene Grande Oil Company, F. It would relegate the plaintiffs to a foreign forum in which the procedural remedies are far less conducive to the fair administration of justice than those available under our admiralty rules. The mode of trial, the lack of adequate pre-trial procedures, and the limitation on the manner in which expert testimony may be offered do not comport with our concepts of fairness.
Plaintiffs will suffer similar detriment if they are forced to pursue their action under the procedures- available under Paraguayan law. See Affidavit of Jose Antonio Lugo. The political realities facing plaintiffs in foreign countries have been recognized by other courts in similar circumstances. In Flota Maritima Browning v. The Ciudad de La Habana, F. This is the dominant factor to be considered in every case when such doubt exists.
At emphasis added. The most closely analogous recent case is Phoenix Canada Oil Co. Texaco, Inc. In that case, a Canadian corporation sued a number of international oil companies and their Ecuadorean subsidiaries for alleged tortious conduct involving oil exploration in Ecuador.
It would relegate the libellants to a foreign forum Venezuela in which the procedural remedies are far less conducive to the fair administration of justice than those available under our admiralty rules. The mode of trial, the lack of adequate pre-trial procedures, and the limitation on the manner in which expert testimony may be offered do not comport with our concects of fairness" and went on to state the law of forum non conveniens as follows: " N ot only must an alternate forum exist, and not only must that forum provide relief for the actions alleged to violate United States law, but the alternate forum must also provide comparable procedural protections to those in the United States.
U nder Stroessner, the State of Siege has been a permanent feature of the regime, not an emeraency one. T he state of siege permits the regime to hold people under arrest "at the pleasure of the President" for an indefinite neriod of time. The factis that the rule of law does not exist in Paracuay. There is no independence of the judiciary.
All judges must be members of the Colorado party. A year after the above report was written, Dr. As to the alleged "confession" of Hugo Duarte-which leaves the torture wounds totally unexplained--and his immunity to compulsory process, this should present no problem at all. Compulsory process is not the only way to obtain testimony from a witness residing in a foreign country, and all indications are that Mr.
Duarte is most anxious to assist his stepfather-in-law, Mr. Pena, in this matter. In sum, if the allegedly more convenient forum were Canada Japan or England, as in the Vanity Fair and Fitzgerald cases cited by defendant at pp. Had they lived in any of these countries, their son and brother would not have died as he did, and they would have no reason to seek the aid of the courts of this country for the redress of any wrongs which they might have suffered in their own.
Suite Washington, D. Attorneys for Plaintiffs.
Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 577 F. Supp. 860 (E.D.N.Y. 1984)
Washington, D. The answer is simple: The authority lies in the grant conferred upon the judicial power, in the first clause of Sec. In the words of Judge Lord, in Valanga v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company E. It thus functions as an independent grant of federal jurisdiction in situations where the conduct of the parties so offends the standards of conduct underpinning international relations that it can be considered to be a violation of the law of nations.
Filartiga v. Pena-Irala
United States District Court, E. New York. January 10, Steven M.