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Would a Multilateral Investment Court be Biased? Shifting to a treaty party framework of analysis

Published on April 28, 2017        Author: 

I have recently been pondering a common complaint voiced against the EU and Canada’s proposal for a multilateral investment court, which is that it would be biased against investors because all of the judges would be selected by states (see, for example, the ABA’s Report here and Judge Schwebel’s speech here). In my view, this criticism is misguided because it confuses the role of states as disputing parties and as treaty parties. States have dual roles in the investment treaty system: they are treaty parties with a legitimate interest in the interpretation and application of their treaties and they are disputing parties with a desire to avoid liability in particular cases. When it comes to questions of institutional design, I think that we need to adopt a treaty party framework of analysis, not a disputing party one.

In a particular dispute, an investor can appoint one arbitrator and a state can appoint another. Once a case is filed, it is hardly surprising that both disputing parties would seek to appoint arbitrators who are broadly sympathetic to their positions. This tends to generate polarization within the field with arbitrators often being thought of (whether accurately or not) as having either a “pro-investor” or a “pro-state” bias. This division helps to explain why, when judged from the perspective of the dispute resolution framework, investors and members of the arbitral community have raised concerns that having tribunals selected by states only would lead to biased results. This is so even though neither the claimant investor nor the respondent state would appoint the particular tribunal members tasked with hearing the case.

When it comes to institutional design, however, we need to shift our focus from the disputing party framework to the treaty party framework. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Mauritius Convention on Transparency: A Model for Investment Law Reform?

Published on April 8, 2015        Author: 

In the midst of heated debates on investor-State dispute settlement in Europe, on 10 December 2014 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration. Prepared by UNCITRAL in the context of its recent revision of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the Convention, also known as the ‘Mauritius Convention on Transparency’, was opened for signature on 17 March 2015 in Port Louis, Mauritius. Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Mauritius, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Convention at this occasion (see UN Press Release). In my Editorial in the latest issue of the Journal of World Investment and Trade (which this blog reproduces), I interpret this Convention as a piece of constitutional reform of the international investment regime and ask to which extent it can serve as a model for international investment law reform more generally.

A Piece of Constitutional Reform of the International Investment Regime

The Mauritius Convention will extend the application of the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency, which so far have a very limited scope of application (only to UNCITRAL investor-State arbitrations that are based on treaties concluded on or after 1 April 2014), potentially to the entire treaty-based international investment regime as it stood on 1 April 2014. Notably, it would make the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules applicable to all treaty-based investor-State arbitrations under ‘old’ treaties, independently of the applicable arbitration rules. Whether the arbitration in question is governed by the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the ICSID Convention, the Arbitration Rules of the International Chamber of Commerce, the Arbitration Rules of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce – you name it – the Mauritius Convention would provide for transparency of submissions to arbitral tribunals, arbitration hearings, and decisions by arbitral tribunals, and give more room for third-party participation under a uniform set of rules. It could thus apply to some 3000+ investment treaty relations if both the respondent State and the investor’s home State are contracting parties or, alternatively, if the investor-claimant accepts the unilateral offer to apply the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules made by the respondent in signing the Convention (see Article 2 of the Mauritius Convention).

Provided it is signed and ratified by a sufficiently large number of States and regional economic integration organizations, such as the EU or ASEAN, the Mauritius Convention will bring about a paradigm shift in investor-State dispute settlement. Although possibilities for reservations, including subsequent ones, are broad (Articles 3 and 4 of the Mauritius Convention), and although ongoing arbitrations are excluded from its scope of application (Article 5 of the Mauritius Convention), the Convention will establish transparency as a general principle of international investment law.

This constitutes another step in the incremental adaptation of international investment law to the demands of a more democratic and accountable international public law system of private-public adjudication. The wide-spread application of transparency under the Convention would not only enhance the accountability of the underlying investor-State relations, but also enable better public control of the arbitral process. This turns the Mauritius Convention into an instrument with constitutional implications for the international investment regime. Read the rest of this entry…

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Timor Leste’s request for provisional measures: ICJ orders materials seized by Australia sealed until further notice

Published on March 4, 2014        Author: 

On 3 March 2014, the International Court of Justice handed down its order on the request by Timor Leste for the indication of provisional measures in its claim against Australia relating to the seizure and detention of certain documents and data (for earlier reporting of the proceedings: see here). As predicted, Timor Leste didn’t get the seized material back, but the decision of the Court did give it most of what it wanted.

The Court considered that Timor Leste had established jurisdiction prima facie on the basis of the declarations it and Australia had made under Article 36(2) of the Court’s Statute accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, and that at least some of the rights claimed by Timor Leste were plausible. A concomitant of the principle of the sovereign equality of States was equality between States when in the process of seeking peacefully to settle their disputes, which meant that States have a right of confidentiality and of non-interference in their communications with their legal advisers when engaging in arbitration proceedings or negotiations. The Court also considered that there was a link between the rights claimed and the measures sought by Timor Leste insofar as they sought to prevent interference by Australia with Timor Leste’s communications with its legal advisers.

The major issue before the Court was, however, whether there was a risk of irreparable prejudice to Timor Leste’s rights, and whether such a threat was urgent. Australia’s argument was that there was no such risk. At the commencement of proceedings the Australian Attorney-General had stated that there had been no inspection of the documents and data seized and that they would be held under seal until the beginning of the oral hearings on Timor Leste’s request for the indication of provisional measures. At the oral hearings themselves, the Australian Solicitor-General had assured the Court that the materials would remain under seal until it rendered its decision on the request. Further, a written undertaking of the Attorney-General was presented to the Court stating that until the close of the Court’s proceedings the materials would only be inspected for purposes of national security, and that there would be no communication of them or their contents for any purpose in connection with the exploitation of resources in the Timor Sea or related negotiations, or in connection with the case before the Court or the Timor Sea Treaty Arbitration. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Mysterious Art of Drafting International Criminal Trial Judgments

Published on January 21, 2013        Author: 

 Marko Divac Öberg is a Legal Officer in Chambers at the ICTY.The opinions expressed here are made in individual capacity and do not necessarily correspond to those of the Tribunal, or the United Nations in general.

The drafting of international criminal trial judgments remains largely shrouded in mystery. There is almost no academic literature on the topic. Of course, the secrecy of deliberations should be respected. However, it takes skill to make a high quality product. Skills need to be learned and it is hard to learn from mystery, so it is worth giving this issue some systematic thought.

Drafting an international criminal trial judgment is a dangerously difficult task. The cases are often very complex. The parties tend to err on the side of tendering more evidence than needed, and in the heat of the action the judges are rarely in a position to deny admission to all the evidence that later turns out to be irrelevant or redundant. Witness testimony and documentary evidence accumulate, at times quite rapidly, for many months if not years. For instance, the trial phase of the Prlić et al. case lasted over four years. The witness transcripts and documentary evidence can easily add up to tens of thousands of pages. In the Popović et al. case, the evidence comprised more than 58,000 exhibit pages and 34,000 transcript pages of trial hearings.

When finally all the evidence has been received, the accused – who are presumed innocent – have often spent years in detention. They are entitled to an expeditious trial, so there is no time to lose before issuing the trial judgment. However, the judges need sufficient time to recall and deliberate on the massive amounts of evidence received over a long period. They also need time to prepare a reasoned, written judgment. In the Nyiramasuhuko et al. case, more than two and a half years passed between the close of evidence and the issuing of the trial judgment.

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Why the Special Court for Sierra Leone Should Establish an Independent Commission to Address Alternate Judge Sow’s Allegation in the Charles Taylor Case

Published on October 1, 2012        Author: 

Charles C. Jalloh is Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.; formerly the Legal Advisor to the Office of the Principal Defender, Special Court for Sierra Leone and duty counsel to former Liberian President Charles Taylor. He blogs at International Criminal Law in Ferment

Introduction

On April 26, 2012, after Presiding Judge Richard Lussick read out the summary of Trial Chamber II’s long awaited verdict in the case Prosecutor v. Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (“SCSL”), sitting in The Hague, Alternate Judge El Hadj Malick Sow controversially proceeded to issue his own “dissenting opinion”.

The way in which the Trial Chamber reacted to Alternate Judge Sow’s decision to make a public statement on the Taylor Trial; the exclusion of his statement from the official transcript of the hearing; and the recent information suggesting irregularities in the process which the SCSL judges invoked to discipline their judicial colleague for alleged misconduct all underscore the need for greater transparency on this issue than we have so far received from the SCSL.

This article argues that it is time for the SCSL to establish an independent fact finding commission, with a narrowly framed and time limited mandate, to establish the truth, or falsity, of the allegation that Alternate Judge Sow made during the delivery of the Taylor Trial judgment that there were no (serious) deliberations by the three judges who convicted the accused and sentenced him to 50 years imprisonment. Such a commission could also determine the extent to which, if any, Taylor’s fundamental right to fair trial under Article 17 of the Statute of the SCSL was impacted. The proposal for an ad hoc fact finding commission would demystify what happened during deliberations and can be concurrent with Taylor’s current appeal. It therefore will not delay the conclusion of the tribunal’s work. Read the rest of this entry…

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