The international community has – with perhaps surprising frequency – established post-conflict international claims commissions as a way to de-politicise the settlement of conflict-affected economic and other disputes. Historically, such claims commissions have included settling claims between: States involved in an armed conflict; States involved in an armed conflict and third States; States involved in an armed conflict and nationals of other States (whether or not their State of nationality was involved in the armed conflict).
These claims are often complex factually and legally. They can originate from internal or international conflicts. Examples include the Belgium-Chile and the Bolivia-Chile Commissions established after the Saltpeter War in 1884, the American-Mexican Claims Commission established after the Mexican Revolution, the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal set up after the Iranian revolution, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission set up after the war between those two States.
One such recent international claims commission, the United Nations Compensation Commission (“UNCC”), was created in 1991 to process claims and pay compensation for damages arising from Iraq’s invasion to Kuwait. The UNCC finally issued its last payment on 13 January 2022. This latest milestone in the history of international dispute settlement provides an appropriate backdrop to consider the use of post-conflict international claims commissions by the international community over the past three centuries.
The seminar reviewed the theory and practice related to claims commissions and contemplated their relevance in the 21st century.
The distinguished panel of speakers for this seminar were:
Robert G Volterra is a Partner at Volterra Fietta and visiting professor of public international law at University College London. Mr Volterra advises and represents governments, international organisations, and private clients on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious public international law and international dispute resolution issues, including international compensation commissions, BITs, the Energy Charter Treaty, ICSID, NAFTA, among others. He regularly acts as co-agent, counsel, and advocate before international arbitration tribunals, including at the ICJ, PCA, ICSID, and WTO. He regularly sits as an arbitrator in ad hoc public international law tribunals, as well as ICSID, UNCITRAL, ICC, SCC and LCIA arbitrations.
Gustavo Prieto is a Senior Researcher at the Department of European, Public and International Law, Ghent University; Human Rights Centre and Human Rights in Context. He holds a PhD in Law from Verona University, Italy. Before joining Ghent University, Gustavo was a Postdoc Fellow at the Law Department, Turin University, Italy. During his doctoral and postdoctoral research, he has been a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany. Gustavo’s interest focuses on the relation between Constitutional Courts, Regional Systems of Human Rights and international investment arbitration, the history of international investment adjudication in the 20th century and the legitimacy of transnational digital infrastructures, such as blockchain technology.
Jeremy K Sharpe is an independent arbitrator and consultant. He previously was a partner in Shearman & Sterling’s international arbitration and public international law groups in London and Paris. He served in the US State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser, including as Chief of Investment Arbitration, Legal Adviser to the US Embassy in Baghdad, and attorney-adviser in the Office of International Claims and Investment Disputes and the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs. He clerked for Judge Charles N Brower at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal.
Emanuela-Chiara Gillard is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict and an Associate Fellow in Chatham House’s International Law Programme. From 2007 to 2012, Ms Gillard was Chief of the Protection of Civilians Section in the Policy Development and Studies Branch of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (“OCHA”). For seven years prior to joining OCHA, Ms Gillard was a legal adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC”). There she was responsible for providing advice to headquarters and field on legal issues relating to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, children, assistance, multinational forces, civil/military relations, occupation and private military/security companies. Before joining the ICRC, Ms Gillard was a legal adviser at the United Nations Compensation Commission.
Chiara Giorgetti is Professor at University of Richmond. Professor Giorgetti teaches and writes in the areas of public international law, international arbitration, international courts and tribunals. She has authored over a dozen publications on these topics, including several authored and edited books. She is also Vice-President of the American Branch of the International Law Association, member of the American Law Institute, past Chair of the Academic Council of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Academic Forum on ISDS. Prior to joining the Richmond Law faculty in 2012, Professor Giorgetti practised international arbitration in Washington, DC, and Geneva, Switzerland, and worked extensively with the United Nations in New York and Somalia. She also served as counsel in several inter-State disputes. Professor Giorgetti clerked at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Professor Giorgetti received her LLM and JSD from the Yale Law School, an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, and a law degree from the University of Bologna School of Law.
Gunjan Sharma will moderate the panel. Mr Sharma is Counsel at Volterra Fietta. Mr Sharma has represented States before the International Court of Justice, represented investors and States in investor-State arbitrations and been counsel to clients before numerous US courts. He has served as an expert witness on behalf of a State on matters of sovereign immunity, public international law and administrative law. He also counsels clients, including States, on maritime and territorial disputes and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He has advised States as legal counsel during treaty negotiations and on boundary delimitation matters. In 2020, the Legal 500 listed Gunjan under the “Rising Star” category for public international law. The same publication noted that peers and clients referred to Mr Sharma as a “future star in the public international law area for sure”.