U.S. Court: Alien Tort Statute/Torture Victim Protection Act




CJA filed suit against defendant Pedro Pablo Barrientos for his actions in Chile by using two federal statutes, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which allow for civil suits in U.S. courts to remedy a limited set of human rights violations.

In 2012, CJA discovered that Barrientos was residing in the United States – in Florida – and was beyond the reach of Chilean courts, where he has been criminally indicted. CJA and pro bono co-counsel Chadbourne & Parke filed a civil suit on behalf of the Víctor Jara family before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in September 2013. The suit seeks to hold Barrientos accountable for the torture and murder of Víctor Jara at Chile Stadium in 1973 under the ATS and TVPA.

During the first year after the case was filed, Barrientos did not make a single appearance before the court and did not responded to a single court document. On November 20, 2014, the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a default judgment in part; finding that the plaintiffs sufficiently pled torture and extrajudicial killing under the TVPA, but dismissing plaintiffs’ ATS claims in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. On January 27, 2015, Barrientos retained legal counsel and filed a motion to set aside the default judgment. The plaintiffs welcomed the opportunity for a full and defended trial in order to bring to light the events surrounding their loved one’s death and did not oppose Barrientos’ motion, which was granted by the court on February 24, 2015. The plaintiffs’ Third Amended Complaint, which details the allegations and claims against Barrientos, is here.

The trial for Jara v. Barrientos began in Orlando, Florida on June 13, 2016. To read a full summary of the trial, please click here. The jury delivered their verdict on June 27, 2016, declaring Barrientos liable for his involvement in Jara’s torture and murder. He was ordered to pay Jara’s estate and family $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages.