Foreign Sovereign Immunity
Customary international law provides immunity to states from the jurisdiction of foreign national courts. The immunity extends to state agencies and to state-owned property, protecting them from adjudicatory jurisdiction and from enforcement measures. Foreign sovereign immunity has important exceptions, including for waiver, for some conduct or property related to commercial activity, and for some torts committed on the territory of the forum state. In the United States, all aspects of foreign sovereign immunity for cases in state or federal court are governed by a federal statute, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
The immunity of states from the jurisdiction of foreign domestic courts is a long-standing and mostly uncontroversial principle of customary international law. The International Court of Justice has described foreign sovereign immunity as a procedural doctrine of international law, one that “derives from the principle of sovereign equality of the States.” As a practical matter,…Continue Reading
District courts and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia have recently issued opinions addressing constitutional issues in litigation against Sudan. The United States and the Republic of Sudan signed an agreement (the Claims and Dispute Resolution Agreement) designed to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries, to promote democracy in Sudan, and…Continue Reading
On September 1, 2023, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress promulgated the Foreign State Immunity Law of the People’s Republic of China (FSIL) (English translation here). When the law enters into force on January 1, 2024, China will join those countries—a clear majority—that have adopted the restrictive theory of foreign state immunity. For…Continue Reading
Suppose a defendant goes into liquidation during litigation and becomes an agency or instrumentality of a foreign state through the liquidation process. Is the defendant entitled to sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA)? The Second Circuit recently said yes. The proper answer is no. Bartlett v. Baasiri The issue arose…Continue Reading