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Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America)

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. I.C.J., 1986 I.C.J. 14, 103-123

    Brief Fact Summary. In order to justify its various hostile acts against Nicaragua (P), the United States (D) claimed collective self-defense for its actions.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Unless the aggrieved state requires aid, collective self-defense cannot justify hostile behavior.


    Facts. Not long after the Sandinistas took over Nicaragua in 1979, they began to supply aid to subversive elements in neighboring Honduras and El Salvador. The United States (D) commenced a series of military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua (P) such as counterrevolutionaries, airspace overflights and harbor mining in response to the activities of the Sandinistas. Though neither El Salvador nor Honduras requested the help of the United States (D), Nicaragua (P) filed a suit against the United States (D) in the International Court of justice. The United States (D) however sited collective self-defense as a justification for its actions.


    Issue. Unless the aggrieved state requires aid, does collective self-defense justify hostile behavior?


    Held. No. Unless the aggrieved state requires aid, collective self-defense cannot justify hostile behavior. In a situation where the acts of the allegedly offending state do not constitute an armed attack, a state may not come to the defense of another state as stipulated under the doctrine of collective self-defense, unless requested to do so. This is true under customary international law and the U.N. Charter. Under this scenario, neither Honduras nor El Salvador were under armed attack or requested aid. Based on this fact, the United States (D) could not properly invoke the principle of collective self-defense as a basis for justifying their hostile actions against Nicaragua (P). The Court hereby ordered the United States (P) to make reparations and to cease its activities against the plaintiff.


    Discussion. No. Unless the aggrieved state requires aid, collective self-defense cannot justify hostile behavior. In a situation where the acts of the allegedly offending state do not constitute an armed attack, a state may not come to the defense of another state as stipulated under the doctrine of collective self-defense, unless requested to do so. This is true under customary international law and the U.N. Charter. Under this scenario, neither Honduras nor El Salvador were under armed attack or requested aid. Based on this fact, the United States (D) could not properly invoke the principle of collective self-defense as a basis for justifying their hostile actions against Nicaragua (P). The Court hereby ordered the United States (P) to make reparations and to cease its activities against the plaintiff.



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