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Hands Off Managua, Court Tells an Unimpressed U.S.

June 27, 1986|From Times Wire Services

THE HAGUE — The World Court ruled today that the United States broke international law through its support for contra rebels in Nicaragua and must pay reparations for the damage caused.

The Reagan Administration, which boycotted the case, reiterated its belief that the court, the legal arm of the United Nations, had no competence to rule on Nicaragua's complaint.

"The opinion demonstrates what we have said all along--the court is simply not equipped to deal with cases of this nature involving complex facts and intelligence information," State Department spokesman Charles Redman said in Washington.

The ruling, Redman said, has "no standing or fact in law."

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Manuel d'Escoto, in court in The Hague to hear the verdict, hailed it as a great victory and said he would discuss it with U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in New York on Monday.

U.S. Found Responsible

The 15-member bench of judges, formally known as the International Court of Justice, found the United States responsible for a number of direct attacks on Nicaragua and for the mining of several Nicaraguan ports in 1984.

It said the sum due in reparations would be fixed later. The Managua government lodged an interim claim for $370 million but said its final claim will be larger.

The rulings, on 16 different counts, were carried mainly by majority decisions of 14 to 1 or 12 to 3, with the U.S., British and Japanese judges the most consistent dissenters.

The Reagan Administration has dismissed the proceedings as a propaganda sham and, in defiance of an interim ruling by the court in 1984, continued its policy of helping the rebels, commonly known as contras.

$100 Million in Aid

This week the House of Representatives backed plans to send $100 million in new aid to the anti-government force, $70 million of it military aid.

The judgment, read to a packed courtroom by the court's Indian president, Judge Nagendra Singh, said the United States violated international law by training, arming and funding the contras and by encouraging military or paramilitary activities against Nicaragua.

It blamed the United States for eight air and sabotage attacks on Nicaraguan ports and installations in 1983 and 1984, and for the mining of Nicaraguan harbors in 1984, which damaged 10 vessels under a variety of flags.

The court rejected a U.S. argument, put forth at early hearings that the United States attended, that Nicaragua was the regional aggressor and states in the zone had the right to defend themselves.

Judges Dissent

U.S. Judge Stephen Schwebel and his British and Japanese colleagues dissented from these key findings.

Nicaragua's case at the World Court, lodged in 1984, prompted the United States to declare a general renunciation of its recognition of the court's authority last year.

About one-third of the United Nation's 159 members accept the court's jurisdiction, but of the leading powers on the Security Council--the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France and Britain--only Britain now accepts it.

On the possibility of damages being ordered paid by the court, Redman said in Washington: "The court's decisions are not self-enforcing. It doesn't have the power to order anything."

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