Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua
(Nicaragua v. United States) case brief
Case Citation: 1986 I.C.J. 14 (June 27)
Link to Case: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?sum=367&p1=3&p2=3&case=70&p3=5
- The Sandinistas were communists and took power in Nicaragua.
- The Sandinistas began providing safe haven to the communist rebels who were trying overthrow the US-allied government in El Salvador.
- The Contras were trying overthrow the Sandinistas from basis in Costa Rica and Honduras and the United States began supplying the Contras.
- In addition, the Contras secretly mined various harbors in Nicaragua.
- Nicaragua brought a suit in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), claiming that the United States was illegally using force against Nicaragua.
- The US claimed that the ICJ did not have jurisdiction. However, the ICJ found that they did.
- Under Article 36(2) of the ICJ Statute, parties were supposed accept compulsory jurisdiction.
- The US refused to participate, but the ICJ heard the case anyway.
The ICJ ruled for Nicaragua.
- The ICJ found that the use of force against another state violates Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, unless that force can be justified as collective defense under Article 51.
- Collective defense only applies if a country has been the target of an armed attack.
- The ICJ considered the United States' position that the US was allied with El Salvador, and El Salvador had been subject to an armed attack because of the Nicaraguan harboring of the communist rebels.
- However, that was not found to rise to the level of an armed attack.
- In addition, the ICJ found that the US justification of collective defense could not be sustained due to the fact that Nicargaura's actions in supporting the communist rebels did not amount to an armed attack on El Salvador.
- The ICJ found that even if there was in fact an armed attack, in order to come to a country's defense, the target of the attack (in this case, El Salvador), must request assistance, and the third-party country (the United States) must report to the UN Security Council before taking actions.
- Neither of these things happened, so the US lost the case.
The ICJ found that the US:
(2) Had violated Article 2(4) by mining the waters of Nicaragua, and
(3) Should cease and desist and make reparations.