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US not expected to abide by terms of World Court ruling

By Gary YerkeySpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / June 30, 1986



The Hague

The absence of US delegates at the World Court last week was symbolic of how the United States views the court and its latest verdict. There is little chance that the Reagan administration will abide by the terms of the court's order Friday that it halt all support to the Nicaraguan ``contras.'' US State Department spokesman Charles Redman rejected the court's ruling and said US policy in Central America is ``entirely consistent with international law.''

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In January 1985, the US withdrew from the case, arguing that the court's objectives of peaceful adjudication were being ``subverted'' by the efforts of Nicaragua and ``its Cuban and Soviet sponsors to use the court as a political weapon.''

After the verdict was read, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann gave an emotional press conference. ``We hope that today's judgment will have a sobering effect on the Reagan administration,'' Mr. d'Escoto said. ``We hope that the US will choose to join the law-abiding nations of the world, honor its international commitments, desist from its policy of covert wars, and respect the sovereign rights of all nations, regardless of size.''

For the US to ignore the court's decision, he added, would be ``to tarnish, perhaps irreparably, the trustworthiness of the United States as a responsible member of the international community.''

The 15-member court of judges from as many countries, including the US, ruled that US backing of the contras was in breach of US obligations under ``customary international law'' not to intervene in another country's affairs.

The court also called on the US to pay reparations to the Nicaraguan government for ``all injury caused to Nicaragua by breaches of obligations under international law.'' It said the sum due in reparations would be fixed later. The Managua government lodged an interim claim for $370 million but at a news conference in Washington Saturday, Nicaraguan government lawyers estimated the damages sued for could total upto $1 billion.

The court also blamed the US for eight air and sabotage attacks on Nicaraguan ports and installations in 1983 and 1984 and for mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984. It also called a US trade embargo against Nicaragua illegal under the terms of a 1956 treaty. The US abrogated the treaty last year but did not give the required one-year notice, the court ruled.

The court's decision came less than 48 hours after the US House of Representatives approved a Reagan administration plan to provide $100 million in military and nonlethal aid to the contras.

Judge Singh said the court had rejected the justification of ``collective self-defense'' maintained by the US in connection with its military and paramilitary activities ``in and against Nicaragua.''

The World Court, formally known as the UN International Court of Justice, began work in 1946. Since then, it has handed down 48 judgments on disputes between countries covering borders, off-shore rights, and other issues.