On June 27, 1986, the International Court of Justice, under auspices of the United Nations, handed down a decision that found the United States in violation of international law. The decision called for the United States to cease its international illegal activities against Nicaragua. The Court’s decision, 12-3, held that the U.S. support of the contras was illegal. A further decision, 14-1, held that U.S. mining of Nicaragua’s harbors and distribution of a CIA assassination manual also violated international law.
In 1987, while President Reagan was defending his contra policy, while Oliver North was telling contra stories to Congress, and while Secretary of State George Schultz was asking Congress for $270 million in contra aid, the U.S. media failed to inform the American public that the Reagan administration’s efforts were illegal.
In fact, the International Court of Justice decision against the U.S. was, for all intents and purposes, a non-event in the U.S. media in 1987.
This non-event status was never more evident that in the media’s failure to cover the November 12, 1987, U.N. General Assembly vote, 94-2, that called for “full and immediate compliance” with the World Court’s June 1986 decision. In particular, the General Assembly called on the U.S. to cease funding its military activities against Nicaragua.
The question of whether the U.S. government rejects international adjudication as having a part in aiding peace, or whether the rule of international law is valid, void, or only reserved for minor matters was never really explored by the U.S. media in light of the World Court and General Assembly decisions in the United Nations.
The American public has been kept ignorant of this international issue and its implications on U.S. policy toward Nicaragua largely because of media indifference.
HUMAN RIGHTS, American Bar Association Press, Winter 1987/88, “The World Court: Let’s Not Forget This Anniversary,” by Howard N. Meyer; ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/7/86, “In Contempt of
Court,” (op/ed article), by Richard B. Bilder.