By Dr Antoine P. Martin

Attempts to limit the jurisdiction and reach of ICSID seem to be progressing as South American states’ efforts to foster regional cooperation through a new regional organisation (regrouping Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela) gain in precision.

Given the numerous investment claims brought by foreign investors against South American States lately, governments have thought about setting rules for an alternative investment protection and dispute settlement mechanism in which greater consideration would be given to sovereign and regulatory needs (see our previous post on Venezuela’s withdrawal from ICSID), and where appeal and precedents mechanisms would be put in place. Following the entry into force of the ‘Unión de Naciones Suramericanas’ (UNASUR) constitutional statutes in 2011 (for a chronology, see this very informative piece by the IIS), the famous EFE Press Agency indicated in Mid April that efforts towards the creation of a dispute settlement centre are becoming more concrete.

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By Francisco J. ZAMORA CABOT, Professor of Private International Law at the University Jaume I, Castellon, Spain.

The issue of extraterritoriality is currently envisaged as one of the keys to the resolution of the well-known and crucial Kiobel case, before the Supreme Court of the United States, which we are expecting any time now. However, the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) has nothing to do with extraterritoriality. That legislative text and its judicial practice must be maintained in the field of international torts on human rights, they are special illegal acts that have to be solved through the interplay of the Conflicts of Laws and Public international law. In no way, that legal text and its practice portray an imperialistic position on the part of the United States in front of other States, or an excess of jurisdiction vis-a-vis the Law of Nations. Quite simply, the attempt to place ATCA out of its scope should be rejected, and has to be considered as mischievous and/or arbitrary.

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By Dr Olga Martin-Ortega, Reader in Public International Law, Greenwich University

Seen on another blog, an interesting comment by Professor Steven Haines on the potential impacts of a recent Judgement of the International Court of Justice, The Hague.

In November 2012, the ICJ released its decision on the Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia. Right after the decision was made public, Haines notes, comments suggested that the ICJ might have negative consequences on crime combating in the Caribbean. His article thus offers an extensive summary of the facts and proceeds, but it also goes on to an interesting debate on how a ruling on territorial and maritime soverignty may in practice relate to international criminal law.

Here is an abstract, the full article is available here

“It must be said that on first reflecting on this case, it appears to have no substantial relevance to international criminal law at all. As already explained, it was to do with rival maritime claims that, while producing tension, had not previously resulted in the parties to the dispute resorting to force […] We can also reasonably rule out the possibility of this case having any relevance to ICC-based international criminal law. If, however, we adopt a broader definition of what constitutes ‘international crime’ there is at least a suggestion that the Judgement has consequences. A broader definition arguably includes all serious crimes having a significant international dimension. Given the international nature of the oceans, crimes committed at sea will almost invariably have potentially significant international dimensions. One group of crimes with profound international consequences is to do with the manufacture, sale and trafficking of illicit narcotics”.

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Just a quick line about a report published ten days ago in an Indian online newspaper regarding Indian’s plans to abandon international arbitration in investment disputes.

Everything is here: India seeks treaty revisions to deal with corporate suits – Indian Express.

ImageThe full extent of the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) which allows non-U.S. citizens to file suits in the U.S. for international human rights violations has been the subject of many debates in recent U.S. cases (Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain,KiobelBoimah Flomo I and IIExxon). This comment looks at the key points relied upon in recent decisions to reject the existence of a corporate liability principle under customary international law. The concurring observations of Judge Leval, who argued that the Kiobel decision might have kept the door open to major corporate abuses and created a precedent of corporate impunity, are especially relevant because they have been confirmed by more recent decisions. This comment also considers the arguments presented in the Kiobel re-hearing rejection regarding the policy impact of the decision and the policy-making role of U.S. tribunals. Finally, this comment questions whether U.S. courts should be expected to get involved in international justice, thereby risking being characterized as imperialist, self-appointed world judges.

The paper is availble here, and as a pdf version

Further arguments in the Kiobel case on the liability of transnational corporations under ATCA were presented yesterday (28th February 2012) before the US Supreme Court. The case was commented a moment ago on this blog (see here as well as the ATCA / ATS tags for more comments)  and it seemed at the time that the Court was reluctant to aknowledge the existence of a principle of corporate liability under international law. Well, it seems that the argument persists.

For those interested in the debate, a very informative post by Lyle Denniston can be found on the SCOTUSblog:

” When Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the opening minute of a Supreme Court argument, tells a lawyer that his entire case is in jeopardy, it is extremely difficult for even an experienced counsel to recover.   And, though he tried, Venice, Calif., attorney Paul L. Hoffman did not appear on Tuesday to have resuscitated his argument that foreign corporations should be held to account in U.S. courts for human rights abuses in foreign lands.  At least a majority of the Justices looked notably unconvinced […]”

Better late than never, here is a post on the recently published report of a WTO Panel on the dispute between the United States, the European Communities and Mexico against the People’s Republic of China. The dispute –which official transcripts are available here– flows from forty measures restricting the exportation of raw materials including certain forms of bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorus and zinc. The complainants identified the following as four types of restraints that China imposes on the exportation of these raw materials: (1) export duties; (2) export quotas; (3) export licensing; and (4) minimum export price requirements.

An interesting aspect of this claim is that China defended its export restriction policy by emphasising the essential impact of those measures on their economic development (sovereignty of natural resources was used here as the major legal argument), resource conservation and environmental protection. This, of course, was rather interpreted by the complaining parties as purely protectionist measures breaching China’s commitments under WTO rules.

Note: this post only provides a summary of the main arguments of the parties and the related findings of the Panel, it does not provide an extended analysis of the case.

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