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.
The Cua-Bocay region, where Linder had been working part-time since I984, was the locus of some of the most consistent and brutal contra attacks on schools , health clinics, farming cooperatives, and development projects. In December 1986 Linder moved to the area full time and took on prime responsibility for coordinating the planning of new hydroelectric plants.
In April 1987 Linder and about five or six Nicaraguans began building the dam in San Jose de Bocay. On April 28 they arrived at about 8:00 at the site where a contra patrol of at least 12 persons had been lying in wait for three hours. The patrol, positioned on high ground above the darn, launched the attack with grenades and machine gun fire. No fire was returned. Linder was immobilized by wounds to his legs and a bullet wound to his left arm. ln a supine and defenseless position, he was executed by one of the contras who shot him in the temple from a distance of less than two feet. His co-worker, Pablo Rosles, suffered non fatal wounds in the initial attack and was executed by a contra who stabbed him in the chest with a bayonet. The third person killed, Sergio Hernandez was found in the stream, a fatal bullet wound through his head. The other workers escaped.
CCR filed suit in federal district court in Miami against the contra organizations and their leaders, Adolfo Calero, Enrique Bermudez. and Aritides Sanchez, charging them with the death of Linder. The complaint alleges that they ordered !lie killing, or were al 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 law and the wrongful death law of Florida- the state in which the contras have headquarters and where much of their leadership resides.
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 its victory in the case of Filartiga v. Pena-that certain violations of international law such as the torture and murder of a civilian, are so egregious that a court has an obligation to decide such issues, particularly when much of the unlawful conduct occurred in the United States. In 1990 we 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. We are awaiting a decision.
Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner, David Cole, with cooperating attorney Jules Lobel and Dr. Ann Mari Buitrago, FO!A specialist