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Nicaragua v. United States (Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua)

International Court of Justice
1986 I.C.J. 14 (June 27, 1986)


In 1979, the Sandinistas, a rebel group in Nicaragua, overthrew the government and reformed the nation using a Communist model. The Sandinistas also supported other nearby revolutions by offering aid to the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), rebels trying to overthrow the Salvadoran, Honduran, and Costa Rican governments. In 1981, the United States (defendant) began to supply financial, political, and military support to the contras, a faction of Nicaraguan fighters rebelling against the Sandinistas. In addition, the United States mined Nicaragua’s harbors and attacked Nicaragua’s ports and military bases. In 1984, Nicaragua (plaintiff) brought suit against the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The United States denied ICJ jurisdiction and declined to participate in the proceedings, but publicly expressed its position that supporting the contras was a necessary means of counteracting Nicaragua’s FLMN aid, which threatened other governments. Nicaragua contended that the U.S. aid to the contras violated international rules on the use of force.

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