The Story Behind the Case that Launched a Legal Revolution: A Review of William Aceves's the Anatomy of Torture - A Documentary History of Filartiga v. Pena-irala
Human Rights Quarterly, 2008
17 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2008 Last revised: 24 Apr 2009
This book review considers Professor William Aceves's engaging new volume 'The Anatomy of Torture: A Documentary History of Filýrtiga v. Peýa-Irala' (Martinus Nijhoof Publishers 2007). This volume is more than a stereoscopic treatment of a single case and its impact. The text also includes a fascinating and exhaustive documentary history compiled from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources within the United States and Paraguay. The mix of legal and political artifacts - complete with pleadings and opinions, embassy cable traffic, and transcripts of key hearings - enables a more complete understanding of the transnational public law litigation process from pre-filing investigation to final judgment and all the hurdles in between. Indeed, Prof. Aceves was able to uncover intriguing information about the case that is not at all part of the official record. Prof. Aceves's book offers a compelling read for anyone interested in international human rights and their enforcement. The review also discusses the legislative and jurisprudential legacy of this landmark case as well as looming threats to human rights litigation under the ATS. The review also situates the Filýrtiga case within the current historical moment in which the inviolability of the anti-torture norm is under attack and the legality and efficacy of torture is suddenly up for debate.
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