Their relevance is of course insignificant in light of the dreadful events that triggered the judgments, however I thought I would flag the private international law elements in this week’s four Dutch judgments following the criminal prosecution of the suspects (now culprits) in the downing of MH17.
The judgment against Mr Pulatov was the only one to respond to defence arguments actually made: he was the only one to have been represented (the other judgments were held in absentia). The judges extrapolate his arguments to the other defendants to ensure some kind of proper representation, however they also explore further elements not raised by Mr Pulatov in the other judgments. This includes precisely the private international law elements for, it seems, no private claim was attached to the prosecution of Mr Pulatov while it was against the other defendants.
In this post I take the judgment against Mr Dubinskiy as the relevant text (structure and content of the other 2 judgments are essentially the same).
[12.4.1] discusses the possibility of judging the civil leg of a criminal suit. That the crimes could be prosecuted in The Netherlands is established on the basis of international criminal law of course, which is not the area of this blog. Jurisdiction for the civil leg is justified by reference to this being accepted international practice. Support (not: legal basis per se) is found by the court in Article 7(3) Brussels Ia:
A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State:
as regards a civil claim for damages or restitution which is based on an act giving rise to criminal proceedings, in the court seised of those proceedings, to the extent that that court has jurisdiction under its own law to entertain civil proceedings;
and in the similar regime under the Lugano Convention. The court rejects a potential (this judgment as noted was issued in absentia) lis pendens argument vis-a-vis proceedings in the United States. The court remarks that these judgments had already been issued before the Dutch criminal prosecution was initiated; that therefore there are no concurrent proceedings unto which a lis pendens argument could be raised; and that the US judgments reached the same conclusion.
Res judicata of the US judgments is dismissed as an element which would impact the Dutch judgments at this stage. The court does point out that res judicata may return at the enforcement stage of the damages part of the judgments, in that the victims will not be entitled to double compensation. Note that the US judgments included punitive damages which as readers will know is also a complicating factor for enforcement in the EU.
At 12.14.2 the court then turns to applicable law, for which it of course applies Rome II. With reference to CJEU C-350/14 Lazar, it dismisses the ‘extraordinary suffering’ of the relatives of the victims as ‘indirect damage’ under Rome II, instead exclusively taking the direct damage (the passing away) of the victims on Ukrainian territory as determinant for locus damni.
Dutch law is held not to be ‘manifestly more closely connected’ per A4(3) Rome II, despite the majority of the victims being Dutch. The court in this respect refers firstly to the link with Ukraine not being accidental (such as might be the case in ‘ordinary’ mass claims) but rather directly linked to the hostilities in Ukraine), moreover to the need to guard what it calls the ‘internal harmony’ of the judgment seeing as there are also non-Dutch relatives involved. This I find a touch unconvincing, particularly seeing as the court itself in the same para, with reference to Jan von Hein in Callies’ 2nd ed. of the Rome Regulations commentary, refers to the need to consider A4(3)’s escape clause individually, not collectively.
Links to all 4 judgments: