The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay

by Michael J. Strauss


The U.S. lease of Guantanamo Bay from Cuba is a territorial Frankenstein's monster that is running amok outside the respective legal systems of its parties and outside the bounds of international law.

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May 2009


Pages 313
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Security Studies/U.S. Foreign Policy

Post-2002 events at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay have generated a spate of books on its use as a detention center in the U.S. fight against terrorism. Yet the crucial enabling factor-the lease that gave the U.S. control over the territory in Cuba-has till now escaped any but cursory consideration. The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay explains just how Guantanamo Bay came to be a leased territory where the U.S. has no sovereignty and Cuba has no jurisdiction. This is the first definitive account of the details and workings of the unusual and problematic state-to-state leasing arrangement that is the essential but murky foundation for all the ongoing controversies about Guantanamo Bay's role in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, charges of U.S. human rights violations, and U.S.-Cuban relations.

The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay provides an overview of territorial leasing between states and shows how it challenges, compromises, and complicates established notions of sovereignty and jurisdiction. Strauss unfolds the history of the Guantanamo Bay, recounting how the U.S. has deviated widely from the original terms of the lease yet never been legally challenged by Cuba, owing to the strong state-weak state dynamics. The lease is a hodge-podge of three U.S.-Cuba agreements full of discrepancies and uncorrected errors. Cuba's failure to cash the annual rent checks of the U.S. has legal implications not only for the future of Guantanamo Bay but of the Westphalian system of states. Compiled for the first time in one place are the verbatim texts of all the key documents relevant to the Guantanamo Bay lease-including treaties and other agreements, a previously unpublished U.N. legal assessment, and once-classified government correspondence.

Series Description

Praeger Security International

As the world gets "smaller" through technology and globalization, the security risks we face grow and multiply.

International security in the 21st century is not a topic that can be adequately addressed in nightly news soundbites or online articles intended to be relevant for 24 hours or less. Comprehending these complex issues requires insight from foreign policy specialists, diplomats, military officials, peace scholars, historians, and security experts—participants and observers on all sides of each conflict. This series provides the tools for understanding security issues in our uncertain, unstable world.

Written by subject experts and well-known researchers, the books in the Praeger Security International series give readers access to carefully considered and highly informed viewpoints on the critical security issues that threaten to destabilize our world. With titles authored by diplomats, first responders, economists, journalists, civil servants, military leaders and combatants, legal experts, psychologists, and other knowledgeable specialists, these books offer in-depth reflections, thorough analysis, and international perspectives that are unavailable in mass media. These titles represent an invaluable resource for students and researchers as well as anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the complex issues that affect our lives and future.


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"An excellent study of the historical, political, and legal arrangements of this remarkable piece of land."Peace Palace Library

"[G]ives rare insight into the complicated nature of U.S.-Cuban relations and the agreement that led to the Guantanamo Bay facility. . . . Mixed with history of the facility, the book contains rarely reported insights on how the U.S. deviated from the lease terms and why Cuba made no challenge."Digital Quill

"Strauss (international relations, Centre d'Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques, Paris) has used unpublished and previously classified government correspondence to document the historical emergence of Guantanamo Bay as a US military base and center for anti-terrorist efforts. The author explores the somewhat 'murky' leasing arrangements that defy both sovereignty and jurisdiction rights and provides students and scholars with the facts concerning the objectives of the territorial lease and the recent and current debates concerning the future of Guantanamo Bay. Appendices include relevant documents such as the Treaty of Paris, the Platt Amendment and the Guantanamo Bay Expansion Treaty of 1912." Reference & Research Book News

"Strauss brings international law to life with this technical yet accessible exploration of the U.S. naval station in southern Cuba."Foreign Affairs

"The exhaustive analysis by Michael Strauss is the first that allows us to understand how the statute of Guantanamo . . . made this territory a detention center outside the standards which only Washington can put an end to. An excellent illustration of the arbitrary limits of international rights in this 21st century." - Translated from FrenchLe Monde Diplomatique

"This thoughtful work represents a major contribution to the broader study of territorial leasing as well as a comprehensive case-study of the Guantanamo lease. It will undoubtedly be widely consulted in the years ahead as the issue of the territory's possible return to Cuba remains firmly on the agenda."International Affairs


"Strauss has composed the most comprehensive analysis to date of the legal status of Guantanamo Bay and its detention centers. More than just a history, The Leasing of Guantanamo Bay masterfully untangles the threads of law, politics and power that have made Guantanamo one of the strangest parcels of land on earth. For those who are interested in what goes on at Guantanamo and why, the book is indispensable."—Marc Falkoff
Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law
Editor of Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak

"Michael Strauss adds an important and unique contribution to the pursuit of justice in the 21st century by calling into question the possibility of activities in the arena of a leased territory."—Michael Ratner
President Center for Constitutional Rights and author of Guantanamo: What the World Should Know, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, International Human Rights Litigation

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