1984.03.21: NYU Law Student Letter Against U.S. Intervention in Central America

1984.03.21 Law School letter v. US Intervention in Central America (Leon)_Page_1

March 21, 1984

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in signing the attached letter. It was authored by a group of New York University Law School students and is being distributed to twenty law schools across the country for faculty and student signatures.

This letter echoes our very grave concern about the rapidly escalating American role in Central America.

We appreciate your help.


Leon Letwin
Steve Shiffrin
Paul Bergman
Karla Simon
Michael Asimow
Kenneth Graham
Carrie Menkel-Meadow

If you are agreeable, please sign below and return either to Michael Asimow or Leon Letwin

March 5, 1984

Dear President Reagan:

As students and teachers of the law, we are deeply troubled by your Administration’s policies in Central America. We call upon you to re-evaluate these policies and ~o bring them into conformity with the foundation of justice and morality upon which our laws are based.

A basic American value has been the right of self-determination of all peoples. Our Declaration of Independence proclaims that all peoples are entitled “to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” With this belief, the United States signed the Charter of the Organization of American States, which specifies that no state “has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.” Ch IV, Art. 18. Articles 1 and 2 of the United Nations’ Charter similarly forbid such intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state.

Despite these legal commitments to sovereignty, the United States is currently financing, training and arming the remnants of the private army of Nicaragua’s ex-dictator Somoza, in an attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. This “covert” aggression not only creates animosity toward the United States among the Nicaraguan people, but also internationally implicates us in a campaign of terror and intimidation against the population of an independent state.

Military assistance to the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala is repugnant to another American ideal: human rights. This ideal prompted Congress to pass a law prohibiting military assistance to any country “the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” 22 U.S.C. 2304. Yet according to Americas Watch, more than 38,000 civilians have been murdered by government security forces and closely linked paramilitary death squads in El Salvador during the past five years; in Guatemala, tens of thousands of civilians have been murdered during the past five years. These murders are not random. Journalists, educators, students, clergy, peasants and political figures who dare question the existing order are singled out for execution. The United States not only continues to send major military assistance to El Salvador, but your Administration is proposing drastic increases to El Salvador and has recently renewed military assistance to Guatemala.

In both El Salvador and Guatemala, the military supports an oligarchy which controls virtually all of these nations’ resources. This control is maintained at the expense of an impoverished majority. Increased military aid may contain but cannot silence their opposition, which is rooted in longstanding economic disparity and military repression.

The American military actions against Nicaragua blatantly impinge upon the sovereign rights of that nation. American military assistance to El Salvador and Guatemala supports repression and murder, and fails to promote the economic, social and legal reform necessary for long term peace and stability in the region. We are in desperate need of new policies that will restore the values of sovereignty and human rights underlying our laws, laws which are meaningless if not sustained in justice and applied with compassion.

We most urgently call for the following:

1. An immediate end to American aggression against Nicaragua;

2. A renunciation of policies of military intervention in Central America and the adoption of policies encouraging genuine political dialogue;

3. A commitment not to introduce or maintain troops in the region. We prevail upon you to cease American participation in the sacrifices of human rights and to respect the sovereignty of Central American nations.


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