Posts Tagged Sovereign immunity

National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon. Branches’ activities, Article 7(5) Brussels I Recast and engagement of Article 30.

Thank you Ali Malek QC who acts for claimants (and who as I have noted, is a busy and efficient bee in international litigation land) for alerting me to a further episode of Kazakhstan v BNYM. This current jurisdictional challenge is part of a long-running saga relating to the enforcement of a Swedish arbitration award dated 19 December 2013 in favour of the “Stati parties”, the Second to Fifth Defendants, and against the Second Claimant, the Republic of Kazakhstan (“RoK”).

Many of the issues are ex-Brussels I Recast and /or Lugano Convention yet I report on them anyway for they reveal interesting issues on the relationship between foreign courts relevant to attachment (and enforcement generally), and courts with jurisdiction on the merits.

In [2017] EWHC 3512 (Comm) National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) which I reviewed here, Popplewell J had dismissed claims essentially designed to establish that BNYM is not obliged or entitled to freeze assets of the National Fund by reason of Belgian and Dutch court attachment orders.

Teare J has now held a few weeks back – helpfully in [2018] EWHC 3282 (Comm) also summarising the many proceedings which the blog has not always reported on. Trigger for this latest instalment of proceedings is claimants having sought to challenge a Belgian conservatory attachment before an “Attachment Judge” of the Belgian court. The Attachment Judge upheld the attachment order in a judgment dated 25 May 2018.

RoK seeks a declaration that the debts or assets held by BNYM(London) and said to be subject to the attachment order are in fact held by BNYM(L) solely for the National Bank of Kazakhstan (“NBK”), the First Claimant. They therefore submit that the attachment order has no subject-matter, because there are no assets to attach. The Claimants contend that this question was referred to this court by the Belgian court.

A provision of Belgian law cited by the Attachment Judge, article 1456(2) of the Belgian Judicial Code, provides as follows: “If the third-party debtor disputes the debt claimed by the creditor, the case is brought before the competent trial judge or, as the case may be, the case is referred to the competent trial judge by the enforcement court.” Further proceedings are now pending in Belgium, in which the Stati parties seek to convert the ‘conservatory’ attachment order into an ‘executory’ attachment order. In those proceedings, the Stati parties have raised a number of arguments in support of their contention that the GCA assets are properly held for RoK (rather than merely NBK). These include Belgian-law arguments relating (inter alia) to piercing of legal personality, sham trusts, and “abuse of law”.

The crucial consideration discussed by Teare J in current proceeding is that the Stati parties submit that there is no “serious issue to be tried” (hence no jurisdiction) as between the Claimants and the Second to Fourth Defendants, (i.a.) because “the declarations sought […] will not affect the Belgian Court’s decision” since that Court “faces a number of Belgian law arguments unrelated to the GCA with regard to the ROK debt question”.

There was a dispute between Belgian law experts as to precisely what had been remitted by the Attachment Judge to the High Court and it is worth repeating each assertion in full: at 28-29

‘The evidence of Mr Brijs (the Stati parties’ Belgian law expert [GAVC fellow Leuven Class of 1993] ) is that “a pure question of English contractual law will not resolve the core dispute” because “a Belgian enforcement court would still have to evaluate – amongst other things – the arguments raised by the Stati parties under Belgian attachment law” such as piercing legal personality, sham trusts, and abuse of law. Further, “the Belgian Enforcement court did not decide the arguments – not because the judge “envisaged” that these arguments should be resolved by an English Court or because the Belgian Enforcement Court found that it could not decide them (when in fact it can) – but solely because the Belgian Enforcement Court considered that it did not need to decide them… It is difficult to conceive why an English court should decide on e.g. matters that concern Belgian public policy, or on the question whether there is a sham trust structure to the prejudice of the creditors and what the sanction/effect thereof is on the Belgian attachment.”

The evidence of Mr Nuyts (the Claimants’ Belgian law expert [GAVC colleague and learned friend extraordinaire ) is that “[t]here is nothing in the Belgian judgment to show that the Belgian Court envisaged the English court deciding only some of the issues, and not the arguments raised by the Stati parties such as piercing of legal personality, sham trust, and abuse of law. These arguments had been raised at length by the Stati parties in written submissions in the Belgian proceedings, and the Belgian Court has distinctly decided not to address any of these arguments, leaving them to be decided by the English Court… The Belgian Judgment holds in general that the “challenge” relating to “the debt of the third party” must be referred to the English court… [and] that it is for the English court to decide in general “whether or not a debt exists from BNYM towards Kazakhstan”.”

It is Mr Nuyts’ evidence that convinced Tear J. At 31 ‘In this case, however [GAVC despite Meester Brijs’ correct statement that there are circumstances in which the enforcement court is competent to decide on the merits], the enforcement court has clearly decided that the English court is the competent court to decide the merits.’ At 35 the relevant passages of the Belgian Court are copied:

“The seized-debtor is entitled to challenge the declaration from the garnishee before the attachment judge. However, this challenge relates to the debt of the third party and must be referred to that trial court in the proceedings on the merits, under article 1456, 2nd para. BJC. The competent trial court is, as stated by Kazakhstan itself, the English court who must apply its own national substantive law. […] Both requests relate to the subject-matter of the attachment, notably whether or not a debt exists from BNYM towards Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan disputes the existence of such debt. The attachment judge cannot and may not settle such dispute, but only the judge on the merits. The judge on the merits is, as already mentioned above, the English court who must apply its own national law.”

That finding on the scope of referral to the English courts, also plays a role in the assessment of abuse: at 46: ‘I do not consider that it is an abuse of process for the Claimants to raise in these proceedings issues not argued before Popplewell J or the Court of Appeal in the earlier English proceedings. First, those proceedings served a different purpose, namely, the determination of BNYM(L)’s contractual entitlement to freeze the GCA assets and in particular the scope of clause 16(i). Second, it appears that the Claimants did in fact seek to raise the wider issue, or something like it, before Popplewell J. but were not permitted to because the Stati parties were not before the court. Third, it would be odd, to say the least, for this court to hold that these proceedings were an abuse of process in circumstances where the issues raised by the proceedings had been referred to it by the Belgian court. It cannot, I think, be in the public interest to frustrate the order of the Belgian court. On the contrary, comity and the public interest point to these proceedings serving a legitimate and proper purpose.’

Finally, a cursory look a the forum conveniens issue is warranted: at 58-61:

  1. Mr Sprange, for the Stati parties, submitted that “England is not a proper forum for a claim against the Second to Fourth Defendants, where that claim seeks (on the Claimants’ case) to conclusively determine issues of the validity of a Belgian executory attachment, which are properly the subject of Belgian attachment law for a Belgian attachment judge to decide”.
  2. Mr Malek, for the Claimants, submitted that the real dispute is not about “the validity of a Belgian executory attachment”, but rather “whether there is an obligation owed by BNYM London to RoK capable of forming the subject-matter of a Belgian attachment.” Further, he submitted that the effect of the Belgian Attachment Judge’s decision was to determine that England was the appropriate forum. Mr Malek relied upon this decision as giving rise to “an estoppel of a particular, autonomous, EU kind”; in the alternative, he submitted that it was a strong factor to be weighed in the analysis of the appropriate forum. Finally, Mr Malek submitted that the only realistic alternative to the jurisdiction of the English court would be the Belgian court, and that “the Belgian court is materially worse placed than this Court because it would be investigating matters by reference to an English-law governed contract, the GCA (so far as issues of Kazakh law, or facts in relation to the relationship between NBK and RoK, are concerned, the Belgian court enjoys no advantage over this Court).”
  3. I am unable to accept Mr. Sprange’s submission. This court will not be asked to determine the validity of the conservatory attachment order made in Belgium. Rather, it will be asked to determine what, if any, assets constitute the subject-matter of that order. The Belgian Attachment Judge plainly considered that a dispute concerning the content of the attachment – which, on its terms, constitutes only such assets (if any) as are held by BNYM(L) for RoK under the GCA – is a question for this court.
  4. The fact that the Belgian court has referred the dispute to this court is a cogent reason, indeed a compelling reason, for concluding that this court is a proper forum for determining the dispute. It would not be in accordance with comity to send the dispute back to Belgium. There is no need to consider Mr. Malek’s further submissions.

I quite like Ali Malek QC’s idea of “an estoppel of a particular, autonomous, EU kind”; linked to considerations of mutual trust, one assumes.

Finally, one of the defendants is based in Gribraltar and against it, (now) Article 8(2) Brussels I Recast applies, re third party proceedings. There is little to none CJEU authority. At 68 ‘I consider that the wording of article [8](2) is wide enough to encompass a situation in which a person is a proper party to a dispute between other parties to which he has a “close connection”, so long as that dispute has not been “instituted solely with the object of removing him from the jurisdiction of the court which would be competent in his case” and at 69 ‘This is a case in which “the efficacious conduct of proceedings” demands the presence of Terra Raf in this jurisdiction. I therefore find the requirements of article [8](2) to be satisfied.’

Teare J’s findings on this point also mean he need not consider (now) Article 7(5)’s jurisdiction for activities arising our of branch activity on which as I noted, I also have my doubts.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11, Heading 2.2.14.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Lloyds v Syria: State immunity and submission to (US) jurisdiction.

Once in a while I post on State Immunity, one of my favourites sub-themes in same being waiver of immunity, whether by contractual provision or following submission. [2018] EWHC 385 (Comm) certain underwriters at Lloyds et al v Syrian Arabic Republic et al is a good illustration of the latter. How does one serve a state which is evidently in times of political unrest? And has that State submitted to jurisdiction hence waived immunity?

Claimants’ claim in the United States District Court arose from the 1985 hijacking of EgyptAir flight 648 and the loss to which that gave rise.  Adam Johnson and colleagues at Herbert Smith alerted me to the case and their review is excellent. Henshaw J held the former issue (service) very practically: DHL evidence of documents having been delivered to the relevant ministry suffices, even if acceptance of the documents is refused.

Assessment of submission was relevant for there is no Treaty between the US and the UK on recognition and enforcement – hence common law applies. In the absence of any Convention or other instrument for mutual recognition of judgments, a foreign judgment in personam can be recognised only if it was delivered by a court which had jurisdiction according to English private international law.  That means that the defendant must either have (i) been present in the foreign jurisdiction when proceedings were commenced, (ii) claimed or counterclaimed in those proceedings, (iii) previously agreed to submit to the jurisdiction, or (iv) voluntarily have submitted himself to the overseas court’s jurisdiction (see Rubin and another v Eurofinance SA [2013] 1 AC 236 § 7).

In the present case (i)-(iii) do not apply, so Claimants must show that the Defendants submitted to the US court’s jurisdiction. Which Henshaw J held they had. Of particular note for this blog is that he (at 59) rejects much authority for CJEU precedent, particularly C-150/80 Elefanten Schuh, held under the Brussels Convention. Even if Elefanten Schuh were to apply, Henshaw J does not believe it would have led to a different outcome. At 66 follows an extensive list of arguments leading to a conclusion of submission, with particular emphasis on Notices of Appeal, each of which included a merit-based objection to the judgment appealed from but contained no assertion that the US courts lacked jurisdiction by reason of, or that the claims were barred by, sovereign immunity.  The simple fact is that Syria at no stage made any such challenge, save very late in the process.

The judgment therefore is interesting firstly for its discussion of CJEU weight in residual conflict of laws; secondly for the Court’s view on submission and sovereign immunity – in my view very much the right one.

Geert.

 

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon. Branches’ activities, Article 7(5) Brussels I Recast and engagement of Article 30.

In [2017] EWHC 3512 (Comm)  National Bank of Kazakhstan v Bank of New York Mellon, Article 7(5) makes a rarish appearance, as does (less rarely) Article 30. Popplewell J summarises the main facts as follows.

‘The Second Claimant is the Republic of Kazakhstan (“ROK”). The First Claimant is the National Bank of Kazakhstan (“NBK”). The Defendant is a bank incorporated in Belgium with a branch in, amongst other places, London. Through its London branch it provides banking and custody services to NBK in respect of the National Fund of Kazakhstan (“the National Fund”), pursuant to a Global Custody Agreement dated 24th December 2001, (“the GCA”). The National Fund has been the target of proceedings brought by Mr. Anatolie Stati and others, (“the Stati Parties”), who are seeking to enforce a Swedish arbitration award against ROK for a sum, including interest and costs, in excess of US$ 500 million. The Stati Parties obtained attachment orders from the Dutch court and the Belgian court, which were served on the Defendant (“BNYM”). BNYM, after taking legal advice, decided to freeze all the assets comprising the National Fund, which it holds under the GCA, on the basis that it was bound to comply with the Belgian and Dutch orders, breach of which would expose it to the risk of civil liability for the amount of the Stati Parties’ claims and criminal liability in Belgium and the Netherlands.’

Effectively therefore the London Branch of a Belgian domiciled bank, has frozen claimant’s assets which it holds in London (although the exact situs is disputed), on the basis that it wishes to prevent exposure to BE and NL criminal proceedings.

Parties arguments on jurisdiction are included at 41 and 42 of the judgment. Core to the Brussels I Recast jurisdictional discussions is Article 7(5) which provides

“A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State: […]

(5) as regards a dispute arising out of the operations of a branch, agency or other establishment, in the courts for the place where the branch, agency or other establishment is situated;’

Beyond Case 33/78 Somafer, to which the High Court refers, there is little CJEU precedent – C‑27/17 flyLAL is currently underway. Popplewell J at 53 refers to Lord Phillips’ paraphrasing of Somafer in [2003] EWCA Civ 147  as a requirement of ‘sufficient nexus’ between the dispute and the branch as to render it natural to describe the dispute as one which has arisen out of the activities of the branch.

At 54 he holds there is such nexus in the case at issue, particularly given the management of the frozen assets by the London branch, and the very action by that branch to freeze them. This is quite a wide interpretation of Article 7(5) and not one which I believe is necessarily supported by the exceptional nature of Article 7.

As to whether the English and Belgian proceedings are ‘related’, providing an opportunity for the English proceedings to be halted under Article 30 of the Recast (lis alibi pendens), the High Court refers at 57 ff to C-406/95 The Tatry to hold that there is no risk of conflicting decisions in this case: the argument specifically being that even if the issues addressed are the same, they are addressed in the respective (English, Dutch, Belgian) proceedings under different applicable laws (in each case the lex fori on sovereign immunity). I do not find that very convincing. The risk of irreconcilable outcome is the issue; not irreconcilability or not of reasoning. In the same para 60 in fine in fact Popplewell J advances what I think is a stronger argument: that the issue whether the National Fund was used or intended to be used for commercial purposes, requires to be determined or addressed in the English proceedings, with the result that there is no risk of conflict.

Article 30 not being engaged for that reason, obiter then follows an interesting discussion on whether there can be lis alibi pendens if the court originally seized had no jurisdiction under the Regulation: here: because the Belgian and Dutch proceedings are arbitration proceedings.

Does Article 30 apply to Regulation claims where there was a related action in a Member State in which the related action did not itself come within the Regulation? Referring to the new Article 34 lis alibi pendens rule for proceedings pending ex-EU, ex absurdum, would there not be an odd lacuna if Article 34 required a stay where there were related non-Regulation foreign proceedings in a third party State and the position were not to be the same for equivalent foreign proceedings in a Member State? I do not believe there would be such lacuna: the Article 34 rule applies to concurrent proceedings which are in fact in-Regulation, except international comity requires the EU to cede to foreign proceedings with a strong (typically exclusive) jurisdictional call. For intra-EU proceedings, the comity argument holds no sway – mutual trust does.

Like Poplewell J however I reserve final judgment on that issue for another occasion.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11, Heading 2.2.14.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

No Bauhaus, but certainly some building blocks. EP study on looted works of art and cultural goods.

Appreciation of the title of this piece of course depends on how one as an individual likes Bauhaus, or not. A November 2017 European Parliament Study on looted works of art and cultural goods is something of  a treasure trove for public and private international lawyers alike. The study looks at substantive law on the issue in the Member States (not the cup of tea for this blog) but kicks off with good overview of the challenges of sovereign immunity; applicable law (particularly with respect to choice of law; with inspiration being sought in the Belgian Private International Law Act, Article 90 (lex furti as a principle – the place from which the object was removed, but with corrections), and the issue of the application of foreign public international law by the courts.

Parliament is quite active on this issue. In May 2016 it had already published a study with more focus on the specific issue of art looted in times of conflict, and alternatives to court litigation but nevertheless with a short forray into conflict of laws (and reference to one or two interesting national cases).

Together the two studies are a good exercise for the conflicts mind.

Geert.

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Pearl v Kurdistan. The DIFC on waivers of sovereign immunity.

Update 17 November 2017 For discussions in Dutch case-law (including re contractual waiver) with respect to SHAPE, see here.

Thank you Peter Smith over at Tamimi for flagging [2017] DIFC ARB 003 Pearl v Kurdistan. Peter summarises as follows:

‘In 2007, Crescent Petroleum, the oldest privately-owned oil and gas company in the Middle East, agreed with Dana Gas, one the leading publicly-listed natural gas companies in the region, to create a joint venture called Pearl Petroleum (together, “the Consortium”). The Consortium entered into an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (“KRG”) for the development of the Khor Mor and Chemchemal petrochemical fields in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The KRG were and remain engaged in a political dispute with the Federal Government of Iraq, meaning that the Consortium were unable to export gas produced by the developed fields. As a result, the KRG became liable under its contract with the Consortium to pay a minimum guaranteed price, but it failed to make the required payments in full.’

Arbitration in London under LCIA rules ensued. The contract between the Consortium and the KRG was governed by English law and provided explicitly that “the KRG waives on its own behalf and that of [The Kurdistan Region of Iraq] any claim to immunity for itself and its assets”.

Cooke J held that whilst the UAE’s recognition of other states was a matter of foreign policy which the DIFC Courts could not rule on, construing the KRG’s waiver of immunity was a question of law and not public policy. In agreeing to arbitrate, a party agrees that the arbitration shall be effective in determining the rights of the parties (at 26). The waiver of any claim to immunity for itself and its assets must mean waiver of immunity from execution (at 28): any argument on that is blocked by issue estoppel (at 36).

Sovereign immunity therefore was not a trump which could be played at the time of enforcement: whatever immunity there might or might not have been had been contractually signed away.

An interesting and well argued judgment.

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

JASTA: Hard cases make bad law. Awful cases even worse law.

It is important at the outset to clarify terminology. A variety of statements, papers and position papers on JASTA, include the doctrine of ‘State immunity’ to either reject or support the Act. The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, P-T Stoll (2011) defines State Immunity as:

“State immunity protects a State and its property from the jurisdiction of the courts of another State. It covers administrative, civil, and criminal proceedings (jurisdictional immunity), as well as enforcement measures (enforcement immunity). It reflects the sovereign equality of States as a main pillar of the contemporary international legal order. State immunity is closely related to but distinct from diplomatic immunity and the immunity of heads of States as well as the immunity of international organizations”.

This definition already shows the many levels of ‘immunity’ and the potential for confusion. The immunity at stake in JASTA is jurisdictional immunity. At the core of this immunity lies its procedural character. Immunity from jurisdiction does not mean that the subject enjoying it, is not bound by the law. States are evidently bound to apply international law. They and their agents and representatives are also bound to apply local law. Immunity from jurisdiction simply means that States cannot be pursued by the ordinary courts and tribunals of other States.

State immunity is seldom included in Treaties. It is considered to be part of customary international law. One or two Treaties have tried to codified it (e.g. the 1972 Basel Convention; and the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and Their Property, adopted on 2 December 2004) however these Treaties do not have many signatories. Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions such as the United States and the United Kingdom have a purpose-made Act that specifies how State immunity (and its limited exceptions) are to be applied on their soil. Civil law countries tend not to have such Act.

The existence of jurisdictional immunity of the State was confirmed by the International Court of Justice in its judgment of 3 February 2012 in Germany v Italy. Here, the ICJ noted (at 56)

Although there has been much debate regarding the origins of State immunity and the identification of the principles underlying that immunity in the past, the International Law Commission concluded in 1980 that the rule of State immunity had been “adopted as a general rule of customary international law solidly rooted in the current practice of States” (Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1980, Vol. II (2), p. 147, para. 26).

The Court considers that the rule of State immunity occupies an important place in international law and international relations. It derives from the principle of sovereign equality of States, which, as Article 2, paragraph 1, of the Charter of the United Nations makes clear, is one of the fundamental principles of the international legal order. (at 57)

And ibidem

Exceptions to the immunity of the State represent a departure from the principle of sovereign equality.

‘Sovereign equality’ lies at the core of the principle of State immunity. In one of the pivotal early cases on the doctrine, The Schooner Exchange v McFaddon (1812), Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court emphasised the functional character of the principle. Other States sovereigns, their bodies and their agents need to be unencumbered in the pursuit of their mission. Just as the home nation expects its sovereign and its representatives to be treated in such way in other nations.

National courts in ordinary are not equal to the sovereign’s status and often diplomatic missions, which is exactly why those activities should not be hampered by law suits having to be entertained in local courts.

It may at first sight seem as if the doctrine of State immunity, like many century old concepts, surely ought not to stand in modern society. In 1951, Professor Sir Hersch Lauterpacht QC called State immunity an essentially insignificant and artificial problem (Lauterpacht, 1951). He supplemented his thoughts with a proposal to all but abolish the immunity of foreign States before domestic courts. In 1988, Professor (now emeritus) Christoph Schreuer published a volume on ‘recent developments’ in State immunity (Schreuer, 1988) in which he demonstrated that, defying Sir Hersch’s predictions, State immunity continued to exist. Now, nearly 30 years after that latter volume and a full 65 years following prof Lauterpacht’ s article, State immunity continues to exercise legislators and the judiciary worldwide, with increased attention to the citisens’ (including corporations) rights  of access to justice.

The boundaries and implications of State immunity are more than ever challenged. States and State extensions (public private partnerships; autonomous public undertakings; privatised utilities with public interest duties; State-funded and /or State run corporations…) play an increasingly relevant role in today’s integrated global economies.

Privatisation, outsourcing, and the general trend in many jurisdictions to downsize the government apparatus, means that in recent years more than ever before, boundaries between ‘the State’ and ‘the private sector’ have become increasingly blurred. Yet in litigation, both at the jurisdictional and at the enforcement stage, the conceptual difference between State parties involved in litigation, and ‘commercial’, private parties, continues to exist.

The increasing presence of ‘the State’(in the broad sense) in general economic life has led to a need for renewed statutory and judiciary response to issues as diverse as vulture funds litigation involving sovereign debt, enforcement of arbitral proceedings against States (and similar entities), …

Italian and Belgian courts were among the first to distinguish, in the application of a principle of sovereign immunity, between States acting iure imperii, and acting iure gestionis. The difference being that in the latter, the State pursues commercial activities just like companies and individuals and, the theory goes, they should therefore not enjoy immunity from jurisdiction.

The limited exceptions to state immunity such as in the case of acta iure gestionis may suggest that State immunity faces un unstable path. In 2012, as noted, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) supported state immunity by ruling that Germany could benefit from the principle to avoid paying damages for war crimes and violation of ius cogens (Germany v. Italy). A year later, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was less favourable by stating that an absolute interpretation of the principle violates article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (Oleynikov v. Russia). However that latter case concerned the iure gestionis exception: The case concerned a Russian national who complained about the refusal by the Russian courts to examine his claim concerning the repayment of a loan to the Trade representation of North Korea. The Court held that the limitation of Mr Oleynikov’s right of access to court had pursued the legitimate aim of promoting good relations between States through the respect of national sovereignty. However, it concluded that the Russian courts had failed to examine whether the nature of the transaction underlying the claim was of a private law nature and to take into account the provisions of international law in favour of restrictive immunity.

The point about State immunity from jurisdiction is that it operates blindly. It can only fulfil its function if it is entirely blind to the merits of the underlying case. Except if the case might conceivably involve commercial activities of the State concerned, a court should simply not entertain the case at all. This is all the more relevant in cases which involve topical international relations issues, such as in particular the fight against international terrorism. By lifting that procedural bar, JASTA makes sovereign States, including those of the European Union, subject to the full weight of American civil procedure, including pre-trial discovery, trial by jury, attorneys fees etc. Exactly the kind of distraction which Justice Marshall would have called an unjustified and unhelpful complication in Sovereign States pursuing their business, as States.

A unilateral change to the theory and practice of sovereign immunity such as proposed by JASTA, in my view does not reflect international law on the issue. It would undermine the very foundation of international diplomacy and law. I believe European nations would be well advised to protest against it, and to protest loudly.

There is no such thing as ‘sovereign immunity-light’. From the moment the principle is eroded, even for what seems a good or justified cause, it is damaged beyond repair.

Geert.

,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: