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University of Massachusetts Roundtable Symposium Law Journal





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The primary consequence of the attacks on 9/11 on the U.S. was a fundamental legal shift in the approach that the U.S. has taken when confronting terrorism and the States that support them. The new challenge of the post 9/11 approach focused on ways to effectively combat not only terrorist organizations but also the States that sponsor them. This new thinking demands that Western democracies adopt an internationally based functional legal methodology that can deter rogue States from sponsoring terrorism.

Civil litigation against States that sponsor or support terrorism is a potential legal tool which could be used with great effect not only to deter terrorism, but to eliminate many of today’s most visible terror groups. Many democracies are economic superpowers and providing a legal avenue for victims to receive compensation via civil litigation would serve as an effective means to deny resources to terrorist organizations while punishing the State-sponsor. It would act as a powerful deterrent against nations who sponsor terrorism by making it unprofitable to engage in support of terrorist activities.

A major stumbling block to the success of this approach is the refusal of many democratic nations to honor monetary judgments awarding punitive damages. If real progress is to be made toward creating a global legal framework which effectively suppresses terrorism, the concept of punitive damages must be framed within the parameters of compensatory damages. Developing a framework under compensatory concepts would still produce meaningful and effective remedies. Of paramount importance is the ability to provide solid legal mechanisms for terror victims to file private causes of action against both those who commit acts of terror and those States who contribute to or stand behind those attacks.

Recommended Citation

Jeffrey F. Addicott, American Punitive Damages vs. Compensatory Damages in Promoting Enforcement in Democratic Nations of Civil Judgments to Deter State-Sponsors of Terrorism, 5 U. Mᴀss. Rᴏᴜɴᴅᴛᴀʙʟᴇ Sʏᴍᴘ. L. J. 89 (2010).

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