The court found in its legal verdict that the US was "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," "not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce," and "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 court had 16 final decisions which it voted upon. In Statement 9, the court stated that the U.S. encouraged human rights violations by the Contras by the manual entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare. However, this did not make such acts attributable to the U.S.
Nicaragua furthermore demanded that all such actions cease and that the United States had an obligation to pay reparations to the government for damage to their people, property, and economy.
The CIA claimed that the purpose of the manual was to "moderate" activities already being done by the Contras.
The United States argued that the Court did not have jurisdiction, with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick dismissing the Court as a "semi-legal, semi-juridical, semi-political body, which nations sometimes accept and sometimes don't."
It is noteworthy that the United States, the defaulting party, was the only Member of that put forward arguments against the validity of the judgment of the Court arguing that it has passed a decision that it `had neither the jurisdiction nor the competence to render'. Other Members who sided with the United States in opposing Nicaragua's claims, did not challenge the Court's findings either as to its jurisdiction, or on the substantive merits of the case.
"As regards El Salvador, the Court considers that in customary international law the provision of arms to the opposition in another State does not constitute an armed attack on that State. As regards Honduras and Costa Rica, the Court states that, in the absence of sufficient information as to the transborder incursions into the territory of those two States from Nicaragua, it is difficult to decide whether they amount, singly or collectively, to an armed attack by Nicaragua. The Court finds that neither these incursions nor the alleged supply of arms may be relied on as justifying the exercise of the right of collective self-defence.
Regarding human rights violations by the Contras, "The Court has to determine whether the relationship of the contras to the United States Government was such that it would be right to equate the contras, for legal purposes, with an organ of the United States Government, or as acting on behalf of that Government. The Court considers that the evidence available to it is insufficient to demonstrate the total dependence of the contras on United States aid. A partial dependency, the exact extent of which the Court cannot establish, may be inferred from the fact that the leaders were selected by the United States, and from other factors such as the organisation, training and equipping of the force, planning of operations, the choosing of targets and the operational support provided. There is no clear evidence that the United States actually exercised such a degree of control as to justify treating the contras as acting on its behalf." "Having reached the above conclusion, the Court takes the view that the contras remain responsible for their acts, in particular the alleged violations by them of humanitarian law. For the United States to be legally responsible, it would have to be proved that that State had effective control of the operations in the course of which the alleged violations were committed.
The Court concluded that the United States, despite its objections, was subject to the Court's jurisdiction. The Court had ruled on 26 November by 11 votes to one that it had jurisdiction in the case on the basis of either Article 36 (i.e. compulsory jurisdiction) or the 1956 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Nicaragua. The Charter provides that, in case of doubt, it is for the Court itself to decide whether it has jurisdiction, and that each member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of the Court. The Court also ruled by unanimity that the present case was admissible. The United States then announced that it had "decided not to participate in further proceedings in this case." About a year after the Court's jurisdictional decision, the United States took the further, radical step of withdrawing its consent to the Court's compulsory jurisdiction, ending its previous 40 year legal commitment to binding international adjudication. The Declaration of acceptance of the general compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice terminated after a 6-month notice of termination delivered by the Secretary of State to the United Nations on October 7, 1985.
Although the Court called on the United States to "cease and to refrain" from the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua, and that the US was in "in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to use force against another state" and ordered to pay reparations, the United States refused to comply. Compliance proved futile as the United States being a permanent member of the Security Council blocked any enforcement mechanism attempted by Nicaragua. This is despite the fact that November 3 1986 the United Nations General Assembly voted on a non-binding resolution urging the US to comply. It was adopted by ninety-four votes to three (El Salvador, Israel and the United States voting against).
Nicaragua's dealings with the armed opposition in El Salvador, although it might be considered a breach with the principle of non-intervention and the prohibition of use of force, did not constitute "an armed attack," which is the wording in article 51 justifying the right of self-defence.
The Court considered also the United States claim to be acting in collective self-defence of El Salvador and found the conditions for this not reached as El Salvador never requested the assistance of the United States on the grounds of self-defence.
In regards to laying mines, "...the laying of mines in the waters of another State without any warning or notification is not only an unlawful act but also a breach of the principles of humanitarian law underlying the Hague Convention No. VIII of 1907."
Votes of Judges - Nicaragua v. United States
|President Nagendra Singh (India)|
|Vice-President de Lacharrière (France)|
|Judge Ago (Italy)|
|Judge Bedjaoui (Algeria)|
|Judge Elias (Nigeria)|
|Judge Lachs (Poland)|
|Judge Mbaye (Senegal)|
|Judge Ni (People's Republic of China)|
|Judge Oda (Japan)|
|Judge Ruda (Argentina)|
|Judge Schwebel (United States)|
|Judge Sette-Camara (Brazil)|
|Judge Sir Robert Jennings (United Kingdom)|
|Judge ad hoc Colliard (France)|
Commander Carrion began by explaining the condition of the contras prior to United States' aid in December 1981. Commander Carrion stated that the contras consisted of insignificant bands of poorly armed and poorly organized members of Somoza's National Guard, who carried out uncoordinated border raids and rustled cattle (presumably for food).
In December 1981, the U.S. Congress authorized an initial appropriation of 19 million dollars to finance paramilitary operations in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Central America. Because of this aid, Commander Carrion stated that the contras began to become centralized and received both training and weapons from the CIA. During 1982 the contra guerrillas engaged the Sandinista armed forces in a series of hit and run border raids and carried out a number of sabotage operations including:
The United States Central Intelligence Agency, and Argentine military officers financed by the CIA, were engaged in the training of the contra forces. The guerrillas received both basic infantry training as well as training in specialized sabotage and demolition for "special operation groups".
The U.S. Congress apportioned new funds for the contras to the amount of $30 million at the end of 1982. This made it possible for the contra forces to launch a military offensive against Nicaragua. According to Commander Carrion, the offensive known as "C Plan" had the objective of capturing the Nicaraguan border town of Jalapa in order to install a provisional government, which could receive international recognition. This plan failed.
After the failure of the Jalapa offensive the contras changed their tactics from frontal assaults to economic warfare against State farms, coffee plantations, grain storage centers, road junctions, etc.
The CIA began to support the contras by setting up and coordinating a communications and logistical system. The CIA supplied aircraft and the construction of airfields in the Honduran border area next to Nicaragua. This allowed the contras to carry out deep penetration raids into the more developed and populated areas of the Nicaraguan interior. U.S. Army engineers created this airfield. The purpose of these deep penetration attacks upon economic targets was to weaken the Nicaraguan economy, causing a shortages of goods.
As a part of its training program for the contras, the CIA prepared and distributed a manual entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare. This manual included instructions in the "use of implicit and explicit terror", and in the "selective use of violence for propaganda effects". Commander Carrion explained that the manual was given to the Contras, "All of these terrorist instructions have the main purpose of alienating the population from the Government through creating a climate of terror and fear, so that nobody would dare support the Government". The manual calls for the "neutralization" (i.e. assassination) of Sandinista local government officials, judges, etc. for purposes of intimidation. It was openly admitted by the President Reagan in a press conference that the manual had been prepared by a CIA contract employee.
After the United States Congress approved an additional $24 million aid to the contras in December 1983, a new offensive was launched, named Plan Sierra. This offensive involved approximately 7000 members of the contra forces. As in earlier attacks, the initial objective of this offensive was to capture the border town of Jalapa to install a provisional government, which the CIA informed the contras would be immediately recognized by the United States Government. But this contra offensive was also repulsed by the Nicaraguan government forces.
In the beginning of 1984, the contras made a major effort to prevent the harvesting of the coffee crop, which is one of Nicaragua's most important export products. Coffee plantations and state farms where coffee is grown were attacked, vehicles were destroyed, and coffee farmers were killed.
Commander Carrion testified that the ability of the contras to carry out military operations was completely dependent upon United States funding, training and logistical support. Carrion stated that the U.S. Government supplied the contras with uniforms, weapons, communications equipment, intelligence, training, and coordination in using this material aid.
In September 1983, CIA operatives blew up Nicaragua's only oil pipeline, which was used to transport oil from off-loading facilities to storage tanks on shore. The United States was also directly involved in a large scale sabotage operation directed against Nicaragua's oil storage facilities. This last attack was carried out by CIA contract employees termed by that organization as "Unilaterally Controlled Latin Assets" (UCLAs). The CIA personnel were also directly involved in a helicopter attack on a Nicaraguan army training camp. One of the helicopters was shot down by Nicaraguan ground fire resulting in the death of two U.S. citizens.
Commander Carrion testified that the United States was involved in the mining of Nicaragua's ports between February - April 1984. The mining operation was carried out by CIA ships directing the operation from international waters, while the actual mining was carried out by CIA employees on board speedboats operating inshore. After the mine-laying was completed the speedboats returned to the mother vessel. Carrion stated that 3,886 people had been killed and 4,731 wounded in the four years since the contras began their attacks. Carrion estimated property damage at $375 million.
Commander Carrion stated if the United States stopped aid, support and training, this would result in the end of the contras military activities within three months. Asked why he was so sure of this, Commander Carrion answered, "Well, because the contras are an artificial force, artificially set up by the United States, that exists only because it counts on United States direction, on United States training, on United States assistance, on United States weapons, on United States everything...Without that kind of support and direction the contras would simply disband, disorganize, and thus lose their military capacity in a very short time".
"The overall purpose (for the creation of the contras) was to weaken, even destabilize the Nicaraguan Government and thus reduce the menace it allegedly posed to the United States' interests in Central America..."
Contra paramilitary actions would "hopefully provoke cross-border attacks by Nicaraguan forces and thus serve to demonstrate Nicaragua's aggressive nature and possibly call into play the Organization of American States' provisions (regarding collective self-defense). It was hoped that the Nicaraguan Government would clamp down on civil liberties within Nicaragua itself, arresting its opposition, so demonstrating its allegedly inherent totalitarian nature and thus increase domestic dissent within the country, and further that there would be reaction against United States citizens, particularly against United States diplomatic personnel within Nicaragua and thus to demonstrate the hostility of Nicaragua towards the United States".
In response to repeated questions as to whether there was any substantial evidence of the supply of weapons to the guerrilla movement in El Salvador- either directly by the Nicaraguan Government itself-or with the knowledge, approval or authorization of the Nicaraguan Government of either non-official Nicaraguan sources, or by third country nationals inside or outside Nicaragua, using Nicaraguan territory for this purpose, Dr. MacMichael answered that there was no such evidence. In the opinion of the witness it would not have been possible for Nicaragua to send arms to the insurgents in El Salvador in significant amounts (as alleged by the U.S. Government) and over a prolonged period, without this being detected by the U.S. intelligence network in the area...Counsel for Nicaragua, asked the witness several times whether any detection of arms shipments by or through Nicaragua had taken place during the period he was employed by the CIA. (MacMichael) answered repeatedly that there was no such evidence. He also stated that after his employment had terminated, nothing had occurred that would cause him to change his opinion. He termed the evidence that had been publicly disclosed by the U.S. Government concerning Nicaraguan arms deliveries to the El Salvadoran insurgents as both "scanty" and "unreliable". The witness did however state that based on evidence, which had been gathered immediately prior to his employment with the CIA, evidence he had already actually seen, there was substantial evidence that arms shipments were reaching El Salvador from Nicaragua - with the probable involvement and complicity of the Nicaraguan Government - through late 1980 up until the spring of 1981....But this evidence, which most importantly had included actual seizures of weapons, which could be traced to Nicaragua, as well as documentary evidence and other sources, had completely ceased by early 1981. Since then, no evidence linking Nicaragua to shipments of arms in any substantial quantities had resumed coming in.
They traveled to Nicaragua, visiting the northern region where the majority of contra military operations took place. The two lawyers interviewed around 36 northern frontier residents who had direct experience with the contras. They also spoke with the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, and with senior officials of the U.S. Department of State in Washington after returning to the United States.
No hearsay evidence was accepted. Professor Glennon stated that those interviewed were closely questioned and their evidence was carefully cross-checked with available documentary evidence. Doubtful "testimonies" were rejected, and the results were published in April l985. The conclusions of the report were summarized by Glennon in Court:
"We found that there is substantial credible evidence that the contras were engaged with some frequency in acts of terroristic violence directed at Nicaraguan civilians. These are individuals who have no connection with the war effort-persons with no economic, political or military significance. These are Individuals who are not caught in the cross-fire between Government and contra forces, but rather individuals who are deliberately targeted by the contras for acts of terror. "Terror" was used in the same sense as in recently enacted United States law, i.e. "an activity that involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that Is a violation or the criminal law, and appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to Influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping".
In talks with U.S. State Department officials, at those in Managua U.S. Embassy, and with officials in Washington, Professor Glennon had inquired whether the U.S. Government had ever investigated human rights abuses by the contras. Professor Glennon testified that no such investigation had ever been conducted, because in the words of a ranking State Department official who he could not name, the U.S. Government maintained a policy of "intentional ignorance" on the matter. State Department officials in Washington- had admitted to Glennon that "it was clear that the level of atrocities was enormous". Those words "enormous" and "atrocities" were the ranking State Department official's words.
Father Jean Loison was a French priest who worked as a nurse in a hospital in the northern frontier region close to Honduras.
Asked whether the contras engaged in acts of violence directed against the civilian population, Father Loison answered:
"Yes, I could give you several examples. Near Quilali, at about 30 kilometers east of Quilali, there was a little village called El Coco. The contras arrived, they devastated it, they destroyed and burned everything. They arrived in front of a little house and turned their machinegun fire on it, without bothering to check if there were any people inside. Two children, who had taken fright and hidden under a bed, were hit. I could say the same thing of a man and woman who were hit, this was in the little co-operative of Sacadias Olivas. It was just the same. They too had taken fright and got into bed. Unlike El Coco, the contras had just been on the attack, they had encountered resistance and were now in flight. During their flight they went into a house, and seeing that there were people there, they threw grenade. The man and the woman were killed and one of the children was injured."About contra kidnappings:
"I would say that kidnappings are one of the reasons why some of the peasants have formed themselves into groups. Here (indicates a point on the map) is Quilali. Between Quilali and Uilili, in this region to the north, there are hardly any peasants left of any age to bear arms, because they have all been carried off"."
Father Loison described many examples of violence, mostly indiscriminate, directed at the civilian population in the region where he resides. The picture that emerges from his testimony is that the contras engage in brutal violation of minimum standards of humanity. He described murders of unarmed civilians, including women and children, rape followed in many instances by torture or murder, and indiscriminate terror designed to coerce the civilian population. His testimony was similar to various reports including the International Human Rights Law Group, Amnesty International, and others.
Nicaragua brought the matter to the U.N. Security Council, where the United States vetoed a resolution (11 to 1, 3 abstentions) calling on all states to observe international law. Also turned to the General Assembly, which passed a resolution 94 to 3 calling for compliance with the World Court ruling. Two states, Israel and El Salvador, joined the United States in opposition. At that time, El Salvador was receiving substantial funding and military advisement from the U.S., which was aiming to crush a Sandinista-like revolutionary movement by the FMLN. At the same session, Nicaragua called upon the U.N. to send an independent fact-finding mission to the border to secure international monitoring of the borders after a conflict there; the proposal was rejected by Honduras with U.S. backing. A year later, on November 12, 1987, the General Assembly again called for "full and immediate compliance" with the World Court decision. This time only Israel joined the United States in opposing adherence to the ruling.