20 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 543 (1990)
Filartiga v. Pena-Irala after Ten Years: Major Breakthrough or Legal Oddity

handle is hein.journals/gjicl20 and id is 551 raw text is: FILARTIGA V. PENA-IRALA AFTER TEN YEARS: MAJOR
BREAKTHROUGH OR LEGAL ODDITY?
Karen E. Holt*
Whenever there is a landmark case, in any field, there is a tendency
for scholars and would-be scholars to rush to interpret it, predict its
effect, and conclude whether it is good or bad law from their per-
spective. In cases addressing issues on human rights, the United States
case which has engendered the most attention is Filartiga v. Pena-
Irala,l a 1980 decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. After
ten years, it is a good time to assess the impact of Filartiga and the
interpretations and decisions which followed. In doing so, I will try
to avoid the trap of concluding that Filartiga was a good' or a
bad decision, and will focus instead on identifying the issues and
concerns which have been raised.
In Part I, I will discuss the Filartiga case itself, and follow with
an examination of reaction to the case in Part II. Part III will discuss
the two significant cases decided since Filartiga which have narrowed
its application in other situations, and Part IV will examine cases
relying on Filartiga. I conclude with a summary of what can be said
about the continued reliance on Filartiga by persons seeking to redress
alleged human rights violations.
I. THE FILARTIGA DECISIONS
Dr. Joel Filartiga and his daughter, Dolly, were citizens of Paraguay
during the administration of President Alfredo Stroessner, whose
government Dr. Filartiga had long opposed.2 On March 29, 1976,
the Filartigas alleged that Dr. Filartiga's son, Joelito, was kidnapped
and tortured to death by Americo Norberto Pena-Irala, then Inspector
General of Police in Asuncion, Paraguay. Dolly was shown her
brother's body at Pena-Irala's home, and told by him [h]ere you
have what you have been looking for for so long and what you
* Assistant General Counsel, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee. J.D.
1983, University of Louisville; Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science, University of
Tennessee. Member, Tennessee and District of Columbia Bars.
630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980), on remand, 577 F.Supp. 860 (E.D.N.Y. 1984).
2 630 F.2d at 878.

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