Cameron Bell


In late 2001, U.S. government officials chose Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as the site to house the “war on terror” detainees. Since then, 779 individuals have been detained at Guantánamo. Many of the detainees have endured years of detention, cruel and degrading treatment, and for some, torture—conduct that violates well-established prohibitions against torture and inhumane treatment under both general international law and the law of war. Under these bodies of law, the United States is required to make reparation—through restitution, compensation, and satisfaction—for acts that violate its international obligations. But the United States has not offered financial compensation to any Guantánamo “war on terror” detainee, past or present. Although U.S. laws ostensibly provide a mechanism for victims of torture and maltreatment to pursue civil actions against the government, strategic procedural barriers have prevented any detainee from successfully bringing a claim for damages. With access to domestic courts unlikely, this Article argues that unless the United States unilaterally opts to compensate detainees, the only avenue for relief is through international principles of state responsibility, a process that still poses great challenges for Guantánamo detainees seeking financial compensation.