Issues Relating to the U.S. Invasion

NSIAD-91-174FS: Published: Apr 24, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the legal basis for the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, focusing on: (1) the U.S. foreign policy implications for invading the Latin American region; and (2) alleged unlawful acts committed by U.S. military personnel during the invasion.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of State based its justification for U.S. military action in Panama on provisions in the United Nations (UN) charter, the Organization of American States (OAS) charter, and the Panama Canal Treaty; (2) the President, in his report to Congress, also ordered military action under his constitutional authority and as commander-in-chief; (3) news reports and polls indicated that the Panamanian people welcomed U.S. intervention, even though most Latin American nations either publicly condemned or expressed concern about the invasion, and UN and OAS resolutions expressed disagreement or regret regarding the invasion; (4) representatives from six Latin American countries did not like to see the sovereignty of Panama violated but realized that all other means had been exhausted to persuade former Panamanian officials to accept 1989 election results and stop harassment of U.S. citizens in Panama; and (5) 19 U.S. Army personnel were court-martialed for alleged offenses ranging from absent without leave to murder during Operation Just Cause, and 17 were convicted.

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