Magazine article The Nation

Justice Sans Borders(judgement against General Hector Gramajo Morales of Guatemala)(Editorial)

Magazine article The Nation

Justice Sans Borders(judgement against General Hector Gramajo Morales of Guatemala)(Editorial)

Article excerpt

By timely coincidence, Federal Judge Douglas Woodlock found Guatemalan Gen. Hector Gramajo Morales liable for acts of torture and genocide committed under his command just as the C.I.A.'s complicity in the deaths of Michael De-Vine and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez surfaced. It is the latest verdict in a series of civil lawsuits brought since 1982 in the United States by human rights lawyers, most notably by the Center for Constitutional Rights. C.C.R.'s attorneys have used U.S. law to bring at least symbolic restitution to the victims of figures like Gramajo and Haiti's Gen. Prosper Avril.

The irony, of course, is that Gramajo, Avril and many other members of their brutal international fellowship have for years enjoyed U.S. training, payoffs and protection and indeed are little more than the enforcers of U.S. and corporate interests. If Gramajo is liable, why not his American patrons? The same laws that permitted Judge Woodlock's $47.5 million judgment against Gramajo would allow a suit against U.S. government officials for their complicity in acts of torture and genocide committed abroad.

The C.C.R.'s suits are stirring gestures of legal aikido, using U.S. law as a weapon against U.S. foreign policy. But wielding U.S. legal power over officials of other nations is at best an ambiguous and imperial solution to crimes that at once embody and transcend national interests. Torturers and death squads carry out their crimes under a triple shield of immunity. …

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