29 Colum. J. Transnat'l L. 293 (1991)
The Invasion of Panama under International Law: A Gross Violation

handle is hein.journals/cjtl29 and id is 301 raw text is: The Invasion of Panama Under
International Law: A Gross Violation
Louis HENKIN*
I. INTRODUCTION
On December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama with
some 24,000 troops,' inflicting both military and civilian casualties
and causing substantial destruction of property. After U.S. forces
overwhelmed resistance by Panamanian forces, General Manuel
Noriega, head of the Panamanian state, took refuge at the diplomatic
mission of the Vatican, but soon left those premises. He was arrested
by U.S. forces and brought to the United States, where he has been
put on trial for criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. law.
The Bush Administration has set forth the facts of the invasion,
described and characterized events and circumstances leading up to it,
declared U.S. motives and purposes, and has sought to justify the mil-
itary action under international law. The facts of the invasion are not
disputed. But for many observers in and out of the United States,
some of the characterizations of prior events and circumstances are
questionable, some of the alleged motives and purposes are suspect,
and the arguments justifying the invasion under international law are
not persuasive and, in some respects, verge on the frivolous.2
Representatives of the United States have offered a jumble of
legal justifications for the invasion. A letter from President Bush to
Congress cited the declaration by the Panamanian National Assembly
that a state of war existed between the Republic of Panama and the
* University Professor Emeritus, Columbia University
1. It is reported that approximately 13,000 troops from the Canal Zone joined 11,000
who entered Panama from the United States. See H.R. Doc. No. 127, 101st Cong., 2d Sess.
(1990) (letter from President Bush notifying Congress of the deployment of U.S. troops to
Panama) [hereinafter PRESIDENT'S LETrER].
2. Whether the President, by ordering the invasion without Congressional authorization,
acted in violation of the U.S. Constitution, or of the War Powers Resolution, 50 U.S.C. § 1541
(1973), or the provisions of law forbidding the use of the armed forces to enforce the criminal
law, 10 U.S.C. § 375 (1988), will not be addressed here. Nor will the question whether
Noriega was entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war, and if so, whether the United States has
respected that status. See Geneva Convention for the Protection of War Victims, Aug. 12,
1949, 6 U.S.T. 3114, T.I.A.S. No. 3362. See also Berke, Judge Rules Noriega Trial Must Pro-
ceed, N.Y. Times, Feb. 9, 1990, at A12, col. 4 (U.S. District Court judge declines to decide
whether Noriega is a prisoner of war, but holds court has jurisdiction of criminal trial of
Noriega).

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