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Filartiga v. Pena-Irala

Law Dictionary
CASE BRIEFS

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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International Law Keyed to Damrosche


Citation. Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876, 1980 U.S. App. LEXIS 16111 (2d Cir. N.Y. June 30, 1980)

Brief Fact Summary. A suit against Pena-Irala (D) on the premise that he had tortured to death the decedent of Filartiga (P), was filed by Filartiga (P).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. For purpose of the Allen Tort Statute, torture may be considered to violate law of nations.

Facts. A suit claiming that Pena-Irala (D) had tortured Filartiga’s (P) decedent to death while he was a police Inspector General, was brought by Filartiga (P). All parties were Paraguayan citizens. Jurisdiction was based on the Allen Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. S 1350, which provided jurisdiction for tort committed in violation of “the law of nations.†The case was dismissed by the district court for lack of jurisdiction to which Filartiga (P) appealed.

Issue. For purpose of the Allen Tort Statute, may torture be considered as a violation of the law of nations?

Held. (Judge not stated in casebook excerpt). Yes. For purpose of the Allen Tort Statute, torture may be considered to violate law of nations. The prohibition against torture has become part of customary international law. Various United Nations declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1975 Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Torture further portrays the fact that prohibition against torture has become part of customary international law. Torture has been officially renounced in the vast majority of nations and this is the reason why this court concluded that torture violates the law of nations.

Discussion. It is not new for many members of the United Nations to make pronouncements and not be pronouncements into action. It is no secret that torture is still widely practiced if not by a majority of countries then in a significant manner. Actual practice, and not U.N. declarations have been argued by commentators as what constitute international law.


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