In the fall of 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, battering the Central American Countries with four days of 200 M.P.H. winds and some 80 inches of rain.
The storm caused 11,000 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage. The United States launched a massive humanitarian effort to aid in the cleanup and provide supplies to the stricken population. Many government agencies participated in the effort, including the JAG Corps.
The Judge Advocates handled the complex legal issues involved in expediting such a large humanitarian mission. Judge Advocates assisted with and advised on legal concerns in many areas of the law, including:
- International law
- Status of Forces Agreements
- Interaction with non-government and private voluntary organizations
- Interaction with U.S. State Department agencies and personnel
- Acting as a host national military base
- Diplomatic clearances
- Fiscal Law
- Foreign disaster assistance operations
- Force protection
- Coordination of U.S. personnel with host nation military personnel
- Legal assistance
- Civil law
- Administrative law
- Contracting with local providers for goods and service
- Foreign claims processing and settlement
- Information operations
- Public relations
- Military justice and Military personnel law
- Environmental law
Long-term cleanups involving many foreign countries, each with varying political and economic ties to each other, require a careful adherence to international law. Judge Advocates were instrumental in solidifying the region, and fostering a collaborative environment between the countries.