About Monica Feria-Tinta

Monica practises in public international law, conflict of laws and international arbitration. She is dually trained in the civil and common law systems and has broad experience acting for States and private parties. Her expertise covers all areas across the field of PIL including its interfaces with commercial matters. Find out more about Monica and see her posts.

Extra-territorial claims in the “spider’s web” of the law? Supreme Court judgment on Iraqi Civilians appeal

Ministry of Defence (Respondent) v Iraqi Civilians (Appellant) [2016] UKSC 25

Ever since the case of Al Rawi v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2008] QB 289, and the Binyam Mohamed case, the direction of travel of jurisprudence by English Courts left behind an earlier position that considered UK foreign affairs a non-justiciable area, and shifted towards scrutiny of the impact of UK foreign policy decisions on individuals.  After all, as it was put by Lord Sumption, in an address at the LSE in 2012, “the acts of the executive are by definition justiciable in its own courts”. The most significant factor for such a shift as Lord Sumption noted, was the enactment into English Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”).

Yet, in a broader spectrum of cases, jurisdictional issues (ratione temporis) and time bars are proving to be hurdles on the path of claimants bringing extra-territorial claims before the highest court of the land. It was so in the recent Supreme Court decision Kayu v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (“Batang Kali massacre“) [2015] UKSC 69 in the form of a temporal jurisdictional obstacle. It is so again in the Supreme Court’s 12 May 2016 decision in Ministry of Defence v Iraqi Civilians [2016] UKSC 25 (“The Iraqi civilians case”) in the guise of a time bar.  

While the Batang Kali massacre case was concerned with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of public international law rules (quite centrally, with the duties Article 2 of the ECHR imposes on the UK in the context of inquiries) the decision in the Iraqi civilians case concerns English private international law and turned on a point of interpretation of The Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984.

In the Iraqi civilians case, the Supreme Court gave judgment in relation to 14 lead claimants (claims had been brought by over 600 Iraqi citizens) who had alleged unlawful detention and/or physical maltreatment at the hands of British armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.

The Supreme Court held, applying Iraqi limitation law, that the claims of the Iraqi civilians, were time-barred. It dismissed the appeal. This post addresses the central finding in the case.
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Sanctions in the wake of the Panama Papers: Diplomacy with teeth?

As the repercussions of the Panama Papers – the unprecedented leak of files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca – continue to unfold, the week closed with the announcement by Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that Panama agreed to adopt global tax reporting standards.  This came about after the EU made it public that it was considering imposing sanctions on Panama over the Panama papers.

Has the imposition of sanctions become a sort of diplomacy with teeth?   The following is a snapshot on sanctions in the wake of the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers raise interesting issues of public international law and its interaction with national legal systems across jurisdictions. At a jurisdictional level (understood in its public international law concept) we see: (i) acts taking place in one jurisdiction (Panama), breaching international law (sanctions under the European Union and UN) having implications in other jurisdictions (UK, and the entire world); (ii) such countries, asserting their jurisdictions in their own right, when investigations/inquests are opened, parallel to the one taking place in Panama; and (iii) on the other side of the coin, we see, various international fora (UN, EU) enlarging, adopting, sanctions with applicability in the entire world; such public measures affecting private matters (contracts, trade).

This last point brings us to a second type of interaction which operates at the substantive level: public international law resolutions affecting obligations and rights in the private sphere otherwise governed solely by private law (e.g. commercial law); such measures therefore becoming relevant for those practising private, commercial law.

More interestingly, at the level of remedies, the remedy on the part of companies and individuals listed, to be de-listed, is before an international court (European Court of Justice) which can also be parallel to going to local courts, seeking to challenge such international public law measures. Continue reading

Foreign state immunity and the enforcement of international arbitration awards: Gold Reserve v Venezuela

Monica Feria-Tinta examines State immunity issues in the recent High Court decision Gold Reserve Inc v Venezuela [2016] EWHC 153 (Comm) concerning the enforcement of an ICSID award of US$713 million (plus interests and costs) against a Sovereign State, by reference to the wider context of State immunity principles under international law, as reflected in the State Immunity Act 1978.

The case brought to centre-stage important procedural questions tied to issues of State immunity concerning the recognition and enforcement of awards against foreign States under English law.

Continue reading: see Monica’s full case note.