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Adjudicating the Salvadoran Civil War: Expectations of the Law in Romagoza

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Abstract

This article analyzes the experiences of Neris Gonzalez, one of the three Salvadoran plaintiffs who brought a successful lawsuit against the former heads of the Salvadoran military for the torture she suffered in 1979. In analyzing the presentation of the case, I focus on the specific transformations that political and historical disputes undergo as they are subsumed into the formal rules of U.S. tort litigation. Further, I pay special attention to the ways legal narratives are designed specifically to appeal to a jury comprising 10 lay U.S. citizens, who have no familiarity with Salvadoran history. I demonstrate how torts litigation requires a depoliticization of the plaintiff and a personalization of history. I argue that, due to the form of the court fails in addressing the historical disputes in question.

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