From: NEW YORK ON-LINE
LEGAL ANALYSIS OF PANAMA INVASION
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute Peacenet Bulletin #1, 1/1/90:
The Peace Law and Education Project provides some basic statements
of U.S. Law relevant to the US invasion of Panama in order to
enhance public discussion and debate on this event and to spur
appropriate action by policymakers, the media, the concerned public
and their organizations. This is a continuing feature of the work
of Meiklejohn Institute, which provides law and history to help
people working for peace, jobs, justice and the environment.
1. U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 11:
"The Congress shall have Power...To declare War,...".
President Roosevelt, to carry out this constitutional
responsibility, asked Congress to declare war after Japan
invaded in 1941. The Congress so voted.
2. U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2:
"The President...shall have Power, by and with the
Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties,
provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and
he shall nominate, and by and the Advice and Consent of
the Sentate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public
Ministers and Consuls,..."
U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3:
"He...shall receive Ambassadors and other public
3. The Congress quoted theses constitutional limitations on the
power of the President over foreign policy and war making in
the War Powers Resolution, 87 Stat. 555, Public Law 93-148,
93rd Cong. (H.J. Res. 542, adopted over presidential veto
"Sec. 2. (a) It is the purpose of this joint resolution
to fufill the intent of the framers of the Constitution
of the United States and insure that the collective
judgment of both the Congress and the President will
apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces
into hostilities, or into situations where imminent
involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the
circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces
in hostilities or in such situations."
"Sec. 2. (c) The constitutional powers of the President
as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed
Forces into hostilities, or into situations where
imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly
indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only
pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific
statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency
created by attack upon the United States, its
territories or possessions, or its armed forces."
Congress then established a reporting requirement for the
President (Section 4) and a section interpreting the
Resolution to require the United States to abide by its
treaties (Section 8).
4. U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Section 2:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United
States... and all Treaties made, or which shall be
made, under the Authority of the United States, shall
be the supreme Law of the Land;..."
The United Nations Charter is such a treaty, ratified by the
U.S. Senate (89-2) in 1945. The Organization of American
States Charter is also such a treaty, ratified by the U.S.
Senate in 1951.
5. United Nations Charter, Article 2, Section 1:
"The Organization is based on the principle of the
sovereign equality of all its Members."
6. UN Charter, Article 2, Section 3:
"All Members shall settle their international disputes
by peaceful means in such a manner that international
peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."
7. UN Charter, Article 2, Section 4:
"All Members shall refrain in their international
relations from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of any
state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the
Purposes of the United Nations."
8. UN Charter, Article 33, Section 1:
"The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which
is likely to endanger the maintenance of international
peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a
solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation,
conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort
to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful
means of their own choice."
9. UN Charter, Article 37, Section 1:
"Should the parties to a dispute of the nature referred
to in Article 33 fail to settle it by the means
indicated in that Article, they shall refer it to the
10. Organization of American States Charter, Article 22:
"In the event that a dispute arises between two or more
American States which, in the opinion of one of them,
cannot be settled through the usual diplomatic
channels, the Parties shall agree on some other
peaceful procedure that will enable them to reach a
11. OAS Charter, Article 25:
"If the inviolability or the integrity of the territory
or the sovereignty or political independence of any
American State should be affected by an armed attack or
by an act of aggression that is not an armed
attack,...or by a conflict between two or more American
States, or by any other fact or situation that might
endanger the peace of America, the American States, in
furtherance of the principles of continental solidarity
or collective self-defense, shall apply the measures
and procedures established in the special treaties on
12. The United States has never renounced any article of these
treaties, nor has it announced that the Panama Canal Treaty
with Panama means that it will not fulfill its obligations
under the UN Charter and the OAS Charter.
13. The Nuremberg Principles are part of U.S. law through an
Executive Agreement (Aug. 8, 1945), and are set forth in the
Department of the Army Field Manual, "The Law of Land
Warfare" (FM 27-10), (18 July 1956) Secs. 498-511. The
Principles define crimes against peace and war crimes and
establish responsibility therefor on each individual,
whether or not acting under orders (Principle IV).
14. Nuremberg Principles, Principle II:
"The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty
for an act which constitutes a crime under
internatiuonal law does not relieve the person who
committed the act from responsibility under
15. Nuremberg Principle VI:
"The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as
crimes under international law:
a. Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of
war of aggression or a war in violation of
international treaties, agreements or
b. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which
include, but are not limited to,...wanton
destruction of cities, towns or villages, or
devastation not justified by military
16. Nuremberg Principle VII provides that "Complicity in the
commission of a crime against peace, [or] a war crime,...is
a crime under international law." Scholars contend that
inaction to stop such crimes in the face of knowledge that
they were committed, may cause one to be in complicity.
Under this theory, certainly every member of Congress who
does nothing, and perhaps everyone in the United States who
watches the news, may be held accountable in the eyes of the
17. In the Admissions by the U.S. Government in U.S. v. Oliver
North, (U.S. District Court for District of Columbia, Crim,
No. 88-0080-02-GAG) read into the record April 6, 1989:
"97. In late August 1986, North reported to Admiral
Poindexter that a representative of Panamanian leader
Manuel Noriega had asked North to meet with him.
Noriega's representative proposed that, in exchange for
a promise from the USG to help clean up Noriega's image
and a commitment to lift the USG ban on military sales
to the Panamanian defense forces, Noriega would
assassinate the Sandinista leadership for the U.S.
government. North had told Noriega's representative
that U.S. law forbade such actions. The representative
responded that Noriega had numerous assets in place in
Nicaragua and could accomplish essential things, just
as Noriega had helped the USG the previous year in
blowing up a Sandanista arsenal."
"99. Admiral Poindexter responded that if Noriega had
assets inside Nicaragua, he could be helpful. The USG
could not be involved in assassination, but Panamanian
assistance with sabotage would be another story.
Admiral Poindexter recommended that North speak with
"101. In mid-September 1986, LtCol North notified
Admiral Poindexter that Noriega wanted to meet with him
in London within a few days. North had discissed the
matter with Assistant Secretary of State Abrams, who
had raised it with Secretary of State Shultz. Shultz
thought that the meeting should proceed. Admiral
18. The number of U.S. citizens living in the U.S. "killed,
threatened and brutalized" during the days prior to the U.S.
invasion (as Pres. Bush alleges U.S. citizens were in
Panama) is not available to the Peace Law and Education
Project. The number is greater than the number for Panama
and it is available to President Bush through the Police
Departments of the District of Columbia, Detroit, Oakland,
and other U.S. cities. Executive action to stop, or at
least to cause a decrease, in these crimes in these
jurisdictions has not been forthcoming.
Topic 16 Panama Invasion - Legal Analysis
peacelaw carnet.panama 10:28 am Jan 3, 1990
An analysis of the legal status of the US invasion of
Panama available on mcli.peacelaw conference as of 1/1/90.
Source: PANAMA echo on
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