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The Case That Changed the Face of Human Rights
Young seventeen-year-old Joelito Filártiga was taken from his family home in Asunción, 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 Filártiga. 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 Filártiga 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 Filártiga 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 Filártiga v. Peña. (Americo Norberto Peña-Irala was the Paraguayan police officer responsible for Joelito's abduction and murder, whom the Filártigas 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 Filártiga precedent changed the landscape of international human rights 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 class action suits pending against corporate defendants ranging from oil conglomerates destroying the Amazon rainforest to designer clothing companies running sweatshops abroad. Breaking Silence is a remarkable, consuming story, documenting not only the most celebrated case in the international human rights field—but also the tragic and touchingly human story behind it that gives it life. In 2001, Dr. Filártiga was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Alien Tort Claims Act continues to be hotly debated among politicians and lawmakers.
Human Rights in the 1970s
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the human rights movement achieved unprecedented global prominence. Amnesty International attained striking visibility with its Campaign Against Torture; Soviet dissidents attracted a worldwide audience for their heroism in facing down a totalitarian state; the Helsinki Accords were signed, incorporating a "third basket" of human rights principles; and the Carter administration formally gave the United States a human rights policy.
The Breakthrough is the first collection to examine this decisive era as a whole, tracing key developments in both Western and non-Western engagement with human rights and placing new emphasis on the role of human rights in the international history of the past century. Bringing together original essays from some of the field's leading scholars, this volume not only explores the transnational histories of international and nongovernmental human rights organizations but also analyzes the complex interplay between gender, sociology, and ideology in the making of human rights politics at the local level. Detailed case studies illuminate how a number of local movements—from the 1975 World Congress of Women in East Berlin to anti-apartheid activism in Britain, to protests in Latin America—affected international human rights discourse in the era as well as the ways these moments continue to influence current understanding of human rights history and advocacy. The global south—an area not usually treated as a scene of human rights politics—is also spotlighted in groundbreaking chapters on Biafran, South American, and Indonesian developments. In recovering the remarkable presence of global human rights talk and practice in the 1970s, The Breakthrough brings this pivotal decade to the forefront of contemporary scholarly debate.
Contributors: Carl J. Bon Tempo, Gunter Dehnert, Celia Donert, Lasse Heerten, Patrick William Kelly, Benjamin Nathans, Ned Richardson-Little, Daniel Sargent, Brad Simpson, Lynsay Skiba, Simon Stevens.
Savagery, Civilization, and Democracy
Many modern conservatives and feminists trace the roots of their ideologies, respectively, to Edmund Burke (1729–1797) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), and a proper understanding of these two thinkers is therefore important as a framework for political debates today.According to Daniel O’Neill, Burke is misconstrued if viewed as mainly providing a warning about the dangers of attempting to turn utopian visions into political reality, while Wollstonecraft is far more than just a proponent of extending the public sphere rights of man to include women. Rather, at the heart of their differences lies a dispute over democracy as a force tending toward savagery (Burke) or toward civilization (Wollstonecraft). Their debate over the meaning of the French Revolution is the place where these differences are elucidated, but the real key to understanding what this debate is about is its relation to the intellectual tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment, whose language of politics provided the discursive framework within and against which Burke and Wollstonecraft developed their own unique ideas about what was involved in the civilizing process.
The Cameroon Condition brings together three seminal essays by George Ngwane, one of the most renowned, committed and daring Anglophone Cameroon writers. ìThe Mungo Bridge,î is a stinging indictment of the tenuous relations between La Republique du Cameroun and the Southern Cameroons ñ a marriage gone sour right from the honeymoon. It raises hard questions on the failed union, and is uncompromisingly courageous in the solutions it proposes. This popular essay was first published at a time when it was risky to be open and critical, especially on what has come to be known as The Anglophone Problem. ìThe Anglophone Fileî discusses the narrow and barren politics of belonging that have exacerbated divisions and controversies among Anglophone elites, turning them into political fodder for the Francophone dominated state. The essay suggests ways out of the divisions and intrigue that have kept Anglophones permanently at daggers drawn against each other, and facilitated their exploitation, humiliation and marginalization. The third essay, ìFragments of Unity,î concerns the South West Region, whose leaders Ngwane criticizes of political opportunism and of a chronic lack of vision and fortitude with regard to the socio-economic development of the region. It calls for a leadership free of the docility, mediocrity and praisesingerliness. These are powerful essays that have attracted praise and criticism alike. They are essays to leave few indifferent. Their continued relevance to current debates makes of them a most read.
Trauma Narrative and Social Action in Latin American Testimonio
As if in direct response to The New Yorker's question of “The Power of the Pen: Does Literature Change Anything?” Kimberly Nance takes up the relationship between ethics and literature. With the 40th anniversary of the testimonio occurring in 2006, there has never been a better time to reconsider its role in achieving social justice. The advent of the testimonio--loosely, a political autobiography of a Latin American activist who hopes, through the telling of her life story, to bring about change--was met with a great deal of excitement by scholars who posited it as a radical new form of literature. Those accolades were almost immediately followed by a series of critical problems. In what sense were testimonios "true"? What right did privileged scholars in the U.S. have to engage accounts of suffering with traditional modes of criticism? Were questions of veracity or aesthetics more important? Were these texts autobiography or political screeds? It seemed critics didn't know quite what to make of the testimonio and so, after a brief bout of engagement, disregarded it. Nance, however, argues that any form as prolific as the testimonio is well worth examining and that these questions, rather than being insurmountable, are exactly the questions with which scholars ought to be wrestling. If, as critics claim, that the testimonio is one of the most pervasive contemporary Latin American cultural genres, then it is high time for a comprehensive study of the genre such as Nance's.
Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it."
Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, and discourteously to try to get ahead and to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency and gain.
The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, and romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism and avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, and marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom and security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism and can hamper democracy's growth and development.
Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, and erudition. He combines mastery of current political and economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope and rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, and anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy and capitalism.
Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse
From 9/11 to Katrina, from Darfur to the Minnesota bridge collapse, ours is an “age of catastrophe.” In this era, catastrophic events seem to have a revelatory quality: they offer powerful reminders of the fragility of our social and institutional architectures, making painfully evident vulnerabilities in our social organization that were otherwise invisible. By disrupting the operation of fundamental mechanisms and infrastructures of the social order, they lay bare the conditions that make our sense of normalcy possible. At a time when societies are directing an unprecedented level of resources and ingenuity to anticipating and mitigating catastrophic events, Catastrophe: Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse examines the tests that catastrophe poses to politics and humanitarianism as well as to the law. It explores legal, political, and humanitarian responses during times when the sudden, discontinuous, and disastrous event has become, perhaps paradoxically, a structural component of our political imagination. It asks whether law, politics, and humanitarianism live up to the tests posed by disaster, and the role all of them play in creating a more resilient world. Taken together the essays in this book ask us to see through and beyond the myths that surround catastrophe and our responses to it. They ask us to rethink our understanding of catastrophe and to imagine new legal, political, and humanitarian responses. In addition to the editors, contributors include Thomas Birkland, Michele Landis Dauber, Kim Fortun, Edward Rackley, Peter Redfield, Peter H. Schuck, and Susan Sterett.
An Asian Journey
Europe's mythical origins lie in Zeus' abduction of the Asian princess Europa. Down the real centuries, Asia has played a crucial role in the making of Europe - as an object of Orientalist fantasy and colonial desire, but also of the spread of the liberating values and humane letters associated with the continent. In this book, a lifelong admirer of Europe casts a critical yet loving eye on the continent to ask what it means to him. The book revolves around a series of personal encounters. These range from following his father to Cambridge, and meeting two Bengali lovers in Calcutta who cherish Eros with classical Greek purity, to watching his wife recover in a Polish hospital that lavishes care on her for almost free.These encounters are intertwined with passionately argued essays on the Holocaust, the Soviet ideal and the Berlin Wall as keenly-contested sites of the European imagination. A chapter on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's historical novel, The Leopard, combines literary and political analysis to peer into the heart of Italy, while an essay on champagne in France discovers the France in champagne. An analysis of secularism in the post-9/11 world defends one of the abiding legacies of Europe. Finally, a chapter on postmodern Europe upholds the European Union as perhaps the most exciting international project on offer today.The literary flair of this scholarly book captures the vividness of the intellectual engagement between Asia and Europe.
The Global Rise of State Institutions for Human Rights
National human rights institutions—state agencies charged with protecting and promoting human rights domestically—have proliferated dramatically since the 1990s; today more than a hundred countries have NHRIs, with dozens more seeking to join the global trend. These institutions are found in states of all sizes—from the Maldives and Barbados to South Africa, Mexico, and India; they exist in conflict zones and comparatively stable democracies alike. In Chains of Justice, Sonia Cardenas offers a sweeping historical and global account of the emergence of NHRIs, linking their growing prominence to the contradictions and possibilities of the modern state.
As human rights norms gained visibility at the end of the twentieth century, states began creating NHRIs based on the idea that if international human rights standards were ever to take root, they had to be firmly implanted within countries—impacting domestic laws and administrative practices and even systems of education. However, this very position within a complex state makes it particularly challenging to assess the design and influence of NHRIs: some observers are inclined to associate NHRIs with ideals of restraint and accountability, whereas others are suspicious of these institutions as "pretenders" in democratic disguise. In her theoretically and politically grounded examination, Cardenas tackles the role of NHRIs, asking how we can understand the global diffusion of these institutions, including why individual states decide to create an NHRI at a particular time while others resist the trend. She explores the influence of these institutions in states seeking mostly to appease international audiences as well as their value in places where respect for human rights is already strong.
The most comprehensive account of the NHRI phenomenon to date, Chains of Justice analyzes many institutions never studied before and draws from new data released from the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council. With its global scope and fresh insights into the origins and influence of NHRIs, Chains of Justice promises to become a standard reference that will appeal to scholars immersed in the workings of these understudied institutions as well as nonspecialists curious about the role of the state in human rights.