While the press has well publicized the Third World debt to United States bankers, it has not similarly covered a multi-billion dollar debt the United States may owe Nicaragua.
The U.S. faces the possibility of a multi-billion dollar damage award as a result of its involvement in the contra war in Nicaragua. The World Court of the United Nations, otherwise known as the International Court of Justice, passed down a ruling finding the United States in violation of international law as a result of the Reagan administration’s support of the contra war effort.
As a result, the U.S. may have to pay billions of dollars in reparations for damages caused in Nicaragua. At the same time, it is suffering the loss of international credibility because of its noncompliance with third party adjudication by the World Court. New York Congressman Ted Weiss, speaking in the House of Representatives on October 21, 1988, tried to warn the nation of the danger of ignoring the court’s ruling when he said “Mr. Speaker, the Reagan administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Court’s compulsory jurisdiction violated a solid policy of support over the past four decades.”
Of crucial significance in the international judicial dispute is Article 94 of the UN Charter which provides that each member agrees “to comply with the decision of the International Court in any case to which it is a party.”
Howard Meyer, a civil rights historian and former Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle, claims the principle of third party adjudication traditionally has been upheld by the United States until our diplomatic officers walked out and refused to negotiate with the Nicaraguan representatives.
In full view of the world, the U.S. is facing charges of hypocrisy for its failure to uphold its own most cherished values of adherence to the rule of law.
The stubborn refusal of Washington to deal constructively with the World Court can only lead our foreign allies and enemies alike to conclude that America submits itself to decisions of the world court only when the decisions are in favor of its own national interest. While the rest of the world may perceive the United States as an “international outlaw” for its failure to respond to the World Court, the American people are barely aware of the dispute. As Howard Meyer says “If you know that the case at the Hague (where the World Court sits) between U.S. and Nicaragua is still very much alive, it will not be because you read it in or heard it from any of the media.” However, it surely would make headlines if, one day, the protection ordinarily given vulnerable U.S. assets overseas under “sovereign immunity” are stripped in order to pay the reparations cited by the World Court.
SOURCES: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/25/88, “U.S. Snub of World Court Won’t Avert Day of Reckoning,” by Howard N. Meyer, Part V, p 5; CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, 10/21/88, “The World Court,” by Hon. Ted Weiss, pp E3691-E3693; OUR RIGHT TO KNOW, Summer 1988, “The World Court and Nicaragua,” by Howard N. Meyers, pp 7-10.