Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Please Remember my Friend Saul Landau

From Professor Terry Karl:

Dear Friends:

Saul Landau -- friend, film-maker and human rights defender -- is dead. Those who knew him understand how very fitting it is to have his Washington Post obituary run on September 11, a day burned in the conscience of both Chile and the United States.

Saul will be remembered for many things, but for me I will always associate him most strongly with his and John Dinges' book, Assassination on Embassy Row. This investigated the 1976 car bombing of Chile's former Ambassador to Washington, Orlando Letelier, and Saul's Institute for Policy Studies colleague, Ronni Moffitt. They were murdered at Sheridan Circle on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. -- in what may be the first attributable terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Saul's role in assigning responsibility for these murders to Chile's Pinochet regime helped to pave the way for the startling 1998 detention of General Pinochet in London based on a Spanish arrest warrant. His work was an essential catalyst to efforts to bring Pinochet to justice. This watershed event opened to the doors for human rights advocates elsewhere to once again hold war criminals accountable for 'crimes against humanity' -- a task put on "hold" since the beginning of the Cold War. Thus Saul is an unnamed hero in the creation of the new "justice cascade" that includes trials held in U.S. civil, immigration and criminal courts against human rights abusers from all parts of the world.

General Pinochet died before he could be tried, but Saul knew the importance of the precedent he had helped to set. He wrote: “Rumors abound that Henry Kissinger makes discrete inquiries before he travels abroad, to assure himself that he won’t get ‘Pinocheted.’” How true this is, not only for Kissinger (who had to flee out the back door of a Paris hotel to avoid a warrant) but also for war criminals who are afraid to leave their impunity-protected countries.

As you will see from this Washington Post obituary, Saul Landau won a number of prizes for his work, including an Emmy and the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins, the highest civilian honor awarded to non-Chilean citizen.

Others will write of Saul's film-making talents and his strong commitment to social change. But for me, having first started out as a Chile scholar, Saul will always be one of the central human rights defenders that made it possible today for war criminals to be charged in countries where their violations were not committed but where the rule of law is respected.
Thank you, Saul. You will be missed.

Terry Karl
Stanford University

P.S. For those who know Saul, please join me, if you can, in making a contribution to finish Saul's last film, with the working title: "Out of the Closet and Into the Rainbow," would be brought to completion. These contributions should be made to: Institute for Policy Studies (For Landau film), which can be found online here.


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