Breaking Silence: The Case That Changed the Face of Human Rights

Breaking Silence: The Case That Changed the Face of Human Rights

Breaking Silence: The Case That Changed the Face of Human Rights

Breaking Silence: The Case That Changed the Face of Human Rights

Synopsis

Young seventeen-year-old Joelito Filartiga was taken from his family home in Asuncion, Paraguay, brutally tortured, and murdered by the Paraguayan police. Breaking Silence is the inside story of the quest for justice by his father--the true target of the police--Paraguayan artist and philanthropist Dr. Joel Filartiga. That cruel death, and the subsequent uncompromising struggle by Joelito's father and family, led to an unprecedented sea change in international law and human rights. The author, Richard Alan White, first became acquainted with the Filartiga family in the mid -1970s while doing research for his dissertation on Paraguayan independence. Answering a distressed letter from Joelito's father, he returned to Paraguay and journeyed with the Filartiga family on their long and difficult road to redress. White gives the reader a compelling first-hand, participant-observer perspective, taking us into the family with him, to give witness to not only their agony and sorrow, but their resolute strength as well--strength that led to a groundbreaking $10 million legal decision in Filartiga v. Pena (Americo Norberto Pena-Irala was the Paraguayan police officer responsible for Joelito's abduction and murder, whom the Filartigas had arrested after finding him hiding in Brooklyn.) That landmark decision, based on the almost obscure Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, ruled that U. S. courts could accept jurisdiction in international cases--recognizing the right of foreign human rights victims to sue--even though the alleged violation occurred in another country by a non-American and against a non-American. So fundamentally has the Filartiga precedent changed the landscape of international humanrights law, that it has served as the basis for nearly 100 progeny suits, and grown to encompass not only human rights abuses, but also violations of international environmental and labor rights law. Today, there are dozens of c
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