In Search of a Forum for the Families of the Guantanamo Disappeared

50 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2012 Last revised: 20 May 2013

See all articles by Peter Jan Honigsberg

Peter Jan Honigsberg

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2012


The United States government has committed grave human rights violations by disappearing people during the past decade into the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And for nearly thirty years, beginning with a 1983 decision from a case arising in Uruguay, there has been a well-developed body of international law establishing that parents, wives and children of the disappeared suffer torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CID).

This paper argues that the rights of family members were severely violated when their loved ones were disappeared into Guantanamo. Family members of men disappeared by the United States have legitimate claims for torture or CID against the government under both international law and American law. However, rather than providing a forum to address the plaintiffs' sufferings of egregious human rights violations, the United States seeks to block all claims and evade accountability. In skirting claims, the United States has proven to be a powerful and skilled adversary both domestically and internationally.

My work with the Witness to Guantanamo project -- in which we have filmed full-length interviews of former detainees and others, including military and government officials who have lived or worked in Guantanamo and family members of former detainees -- has inspired me to write this article, and informs its content. Our nation must address its human rights violations.

Keywords: disappearance, enforced disappearance, Guantanamo, international law, torture, cruel inhuman & degrading treatment, CID, detainees, families, parents, wives, children, Alien Tort Statute, Federal Tort Claims Act, Westfall Act, Torture Victims Protection Act, international courts

Suggested Citation

Honigsberg, Peter Jan, In Search of a Forum for the Families of the Guantanamo Disappeared (April 30, 2012). 90 Denver University Law Review 433 (2012); Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2012-07. Available at SSRN: or

Peter Jan Honigsberg (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States
415-422-6478 (Phone)
415-422-6433 (Fax)

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