Linder v. Calero – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1991

On April 28, 1987, Benjamin Linder, a U.S. citizen, and two Nicaraguans were murdered by contras who attacked the site of a small dam they were building in the village of Bocay. The dam was part of a project to provide electricity, potable water and boost development.

In 1988 CCR filed suit in federal district court in Miami against the contra organizations and their leaders, Adolfo Calero, Enrique Bermudez, and Aristides Sanchez, charging them with the death of Linder. The complaint alleges that they ordered the killing, or were at least aware of, or condoned the contra practice of killing civilians and executing the wounded.Plaintiffs, the family of Benjamin Linder, asserted a cause of action under international Jaw and the wrongful death Jaw of Florida­ the state in which the contras then had their headquarters and where much of their leadership resided.

The contra defendants filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that a federal court could not entertain jurisdiction over suits alleging injuries or wrongful death that occur during war even if the death involved torture and summary execution of a civilian. CCR responded with an argument based upon the Filartiga principle. In 1990 CCR amended the complaint to include additional information received by a former contra that Enrique Bermudez had personally ordered Linder’s death. The  judge requested additional arguments on the significance of this information. However, the case was dismissed on political question grounds-a discretionary doctrine which precludes federal courts from deciding cases which could interfere with foreign policy.Maintaining that cases concerning torture and summary execution are not contingent upon this doctrine, CCR attorneys will appeal this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Eleventh Circuit and the case will be heard early in 1992.

Michael Ratner, Margaret L. Ratner, David Cole, Beth Stephens, Jules Lobel, and Dr. Ann Mari Buitrago, FOIA specialist