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30 Va. J. Int'l L. 891 (1990)


In March 1988, Nicaragua's Sandinista government asked the International Court of Justice ("ICJ") to order the United States to pay $12 billion for violations of international law, as determined by the Court in June 1986. Before the Court could rule, however, the Sandinistas were voted out of office in national elections on February 25, 1990. Nicaragua's new government has recently indicated that it does not intend to give up the claim but will seek a settlement of the judgment with the United States government. But if the parties cannot reach a voluntary settlement, can Nicaragua enforce an ICJ judgment against the United States—or any other state, for that matter?

The efficacy of ICJ judgments is surely important to states which may be contemplating whether to seek monetary damages in current or future cases. States considering such cases must determine whether it is worth expending the significant resources necessary to bring an action before the ICJ if the resulting judgments cannot be enforced.

This Article presents an inquiry into the prospects for enforcement of monetary judgments of the IC. The introduction attempts to establish the importance to the international community of having enforceable IC judgments. The three sections which follow consider the relative merits of different institutional mechanisms available for enforcing decisions: enforcement through international organizations, specifically the IC, the U.N. Security Council, and the U.N. General Assembly; enforcement between the parties, either by seeking recognition of the judgment in the courts of the judgment creditor or debtor, or through self-help; and enforcement through third-party assistance.

The Article concludes that prospects for enforcement have in fact improved - not primarily because of developments with regard to the ICJ itself, but more because enforcement of analogous international awards has improved markedly. Various courts and other institutions, recognizing the importance of enforcement, now regularly recognize international awards, thus making it more likely that ICJ judgments will have real effect.



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