11 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 335 (1981)
Filartiga v. Pena-Irala: A Contribution to the Development of Customary International Law by a Domestic Court

handle is hein.journals/gjicl11 and id is 343 raw text is: FILARTIGA v. PENA-IRALA: A
CONTRIBUTION TO THE
DEVELOPMENT OF CUSTOMARY
INTERNATIONAL LAW BY A
DOMESTIC COURT
C. Donald Johnson, Jr.*
As with many landmark decisions, the importance of the opinion
in the Filartiga v. Pena-Irala1 case has little to do with the parties
involved. Assuming the Filartigas ultimately were able to obtain a
judgment on the merits, its enforceability against the defendant in
Paraguay seems problematical at best. On a practical level, the ap-
proval by a United States court of subject matter jurisdiction in
this case may provide inspiration for suits against alleged foreign
torturers exiled in this country or just passing through at an un-
timely moment, but it seems unlikely to offer torture victims and
their families much in the way of a satisfactory remedy against
such acts.
Nevertheless, the decision is most significant. Supported by a
competent analysis of the developing general usage and practice
of nations, the court's holding that deliberate torture perpetrated
under color of official authority violates universally accepted
norms of the international law of human rights, regardless of the
nationality of the parties' is an important contribution to the
growing weight of authority acknowledging the legal status of in-
ternational standards governing basic human rights. Equally im-
portant from a broader perspective is the recognition by a domes-
tic court that international law transcends sovereign boundaries
to protect individuals from their own government officials.
Only rarely is an American court called upon to interpret the
law of nations, particularly areas of such law that must be ascer-
tained from the evolving sources of customary international law.
In a modern municipal legal system where the law governing most
issues is found in statutory codes and court reporters, domestic
courts are presented with no small challenge when confronted
* Member of the Georgia, Illinois, and District of Columbia Bars. LL.M., London School
of Economics and Political Science (London) 1978; J.D., University of Georgia School of
Law, 1973; B.A. University of Georgia, 1970.
630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980).
Id. at 878.

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