Paul Stephan Discusses ICJ Decision in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State

by Kenneth Anderson

Over at Lawfare, UVA professor Paul Stephan talks about the ICJ decision in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy).  He describes the decision, and adds some comment on its implications of the decision for the concept of international civil jurisdiction and Alien Tort Statute litigation in the United States.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed a victory to traditional conceptions of international law and a setback to an effort to privilege international human rights over other aspects of the international legal system. Its decision in Jurisdictional Immunities of the State rejected Italy’s attempt to create an exception to sovereign immunity in civil cases based on claims of grave human rights abuses. The decision not only rebukes Italian and Greek courts, which earlier in this decade had opened themselves to claims based on Germany’s World War II atrocities, but also may cast a shadow over some aspects of human rights litigation in the United States. One can find in the decision, and particularly in the concurring opinion of Judge Keith (New Zealand), support for the argument that the exercise of universal civil jurisdiction, which most U.S. human rights litigation does, violates international law.

Note: for reasons I can’t seem to fix, this post seems to be permitting spam, so I’m going to close it to comments.

One Response

  1. Response…
    not surprising the the neocons who abhore human rights law and claims for justice and an end to impunity would celebrate this decision and call it “traditional.”  But see The Santissima Trinidad (U.S. 1822); Berg (U.S. 1917); and so many cases using the ultra vires rationale to deny immunity, political question, and/or act of state claims by the defense — which rationale has a famous base in the Opinion and Judgment of the IMT at Nuremberg regarding the law of authority of any state to violate or authorize or delegate any lawful power to violate international law (even addressing “act of state”).

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