10 cases in international law (2016)

1. Filártiga v. Peña-Irala (1980)

What this shows:

A US federal court punishing a non-US citizen for acts committed outside the US, due to violating international law and treaties to which the US is a party.

Brief description of events:

  • The 17 year old son of the Filártiga family, Joelito was found dead in Paraguay.
  • The Filártiga family stated that Joelito was kidnapped and tortured by Américo Norberto Peña-Irala.  Peña-Irala was the inspector general of police in the capital city of Paraguay, Asuncion.
  • The Filártiga family claimed the death of Joelito was due to the political activities of his father.
  • The Filártiga family took the Paraguay police and Peña-Irala to court, but the case didn’t progress.
  • Dolly Filártiga went to the US in 1978. She was the sister of Joelito.
  • While Dolly was in the US, she learned that Peña-Irala was also in the US. She reported this to the US government who arrested Peña-Irala and took him to a deportation centre due to overstaying his visitor visa.  
  • While Peña-Irala was awaiting deportation, Dolly lodged a complaint to the US courts about her late brother’s death by torture.
  • The initial hearing at the US court was dismissed citing the limited jurisdiction of the US.
  • It was taken to the court of appeal. The court of appeal stated that freedom from torture is part of customary international law, and Peña-Irala’s actions had violated this.  
  • The US court of appeal ruled in favour of the Filártiga family, awarding them approximately 10 million USD in damages.

Treaties invoked:

  • UN charter
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man

2. On Diplomatic Immunity

What this shows:

The UK government respecting the convention on diplomatic immunity despite a heinous act being committed.

Brief description of events:

  • The Metropolitan Police in London were called to police a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in 1984.
  • The demonstration was to protest against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
  • While policing the demonstration, gunshot fires were seen coming from the first floor of the Libyan embassy targeting the demonstrators. Ten anti-Gaddafi campaigners were injured, and a female police officer was shot in the back.
  • The police did not raid the embassy due to its status of being immune to law enforcement measures.
  • The police officer later died from her injuries.
  • Diplomatic ties between Libya and the UK were severed because of the killing. The Libyan government accepted responsibility and paid compensation to the family of the police officer.

Treaties involved:

  • Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961)


3.       Darfur

Coming soon