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Nicaragua v. United States

The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America, was a judgement by the International Court of Justice that the United States had violated international law by supporting Contra guerrillas in their war against the Nicaraguan government, and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. The United States refused to abide by the Court's decision, even though it was obligated to do so under international law. After the Court's decision, the United States withdrew its declaration accepting the Court's compulsory jurisdiction.

On June 27, 1986, the court found that:

  • "the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State"
  • "the United States of America, by certain attacks on Nicaraguan territory in 1983-1984, namely attacks on Puerto Sandino[?] on 13 September and 14 October 1983, an attack on Corinto on 10 October 1983; an attack on Potosi Naval Base[?] on 4/5 January 1984, an attack on San Juan del Sur[?] on 7 March 1984; attacks on patrol boats at Puerto Sandino on 28 and 30 March 1984; and an attack on San Juan del Norte[?] on 9 April 1984; and further by those acts of intervention referred to [above] which involve the use of force, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to use force against another State"
  • "the United States of America, by directing or authorizing over Rights of Nicaraguan territory, and by the acts imputable to the United States referred to [above], has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to violate the sovereignty of another State"
  • "by laying mines in the internal or territorial waters of the Republic of Nicaragua during the first months of 1984, the United States of America has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State, not to intervene in its affairs, not to violate its sovereignty and not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce"
  • "the United States of America, by the attacks on Nicaraguan territory referred to [above], and by declaring a general embargo on trade with Nicaragua on 1 May 1985, has acted in breach of its obligations under Article XIX of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the Parties signed at Managua on 21 January 1956"
  • "the United States of America, by producing in 1983 a manual entitled 'Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas', and disseminating it to contra forces, has encouraged the commission by them of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law; but does not find a basis for concluding that any such acts which may have been committed are imputable to the United States of America as acts of the United States of America"

U.S. Defense and response

The United States argued that the Court did not have jurisdiction. American ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick dismissed the Court as a "semi-legal, semi-juridical, semi-political body which nations sometimes accept and sometimes don’t." The Court rejected these arguments. The United States then refused to participate in the merits phase of the proceedings, but the Court found that the US refusal did not prevent it from deciding the case. The Court also rejected the United States defense that its action constituted collective self-defense.

How the Judges Voted

Votes of Judges - Nicaragua v. United States

Judge

Operative Paragraph

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

President Nagendra Singh (India)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Vice-President de Lacharrière (France)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Ago (Japan)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Bedjaoui

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Elias

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Lachs

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Mbaye

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Ni

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Oda

Y

N

N

N

N

N

Y

N

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Judge Ruda

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Schwebel

Y

N

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Judge Sette-Camara

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Judge Sir Robert Jennings (United Kingdom)

Y

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Judge ad hoc Colliard

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

External links

  • Documents (http://www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/Icases/iNus/inusframe.htm) from the Court's website



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