Serving Defendants in Ukrainian Territory Occupied by Russia

Jeanne Huang

University of Sydney Law School

Both Russia and Ukraine are member states of the 1965 Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention (HSC)). After Russia occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and its capital city, Sevastopol, and exercised control over certain areas of Ukraine (the “Occupied Areas”), Ukraine filed a declaration (“Ukraine’s Declaration on Crimea”) under the HSC. It states that, as a result of Russia’s occupation, implementing the HSC in the Occupied Areas is limited, that the procedure for service and relevant communication is determined by the Central Authority of Ukraine, and that documents or requests issued by the Russian and related illegal Authorities in the Occupied Areas are null and void and have no legal effect.

In 2016, Russia declared (“Russia’s Declaration on Crimea”) that Ukraine’s Declaration on Crimea is based on “a bad faith and incorrect presentation and interpretation of facts and law” under the HSC and other Hague Conventions. Thus far, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland have each made declarations supporting Ukraine’s and announcing that they will not engage in any direct interaction with the Authorities in the Occupied Areas and will not accept any documents or requests emanating from or through such Authorities. The conflicting Declaration made by Ukraine and Russia, respectively, brings challenges for serving a defendant residing in the Occupied Areas—the scope of which has expanded during the recent military conflict—in civil and commercial cases when the defendant neither appoints an agent in the forum nor waives service. On one hand, neither Ukraine nor Russia permit service by postal channels (mail) under HSC Article 10(a). On the other, service via the Ukrainian Central Authority in the Occupied Areas is unguaranteed as indicated in Ukraine’s Declaration on Crimea; however, Ukraine and its supporting states do not recognize service conducted by the Russian Central Authority. A practical question for litigators is how to conduct service of process in the Occupied Areas?

This post suggests that the legal effects of service conducted by the Russian Central Authority under the HSC on a defendant in the Occupied Areas should be recognized for two reasons. Firstly, the Ukraine and its supporting states’ declarations under the HSC are interpretative declarations rather than reservations (the same is true of the Russian declaration). Secondly, the Namibia Exception can provide certainty and predictability for litigators in international civil and commercial cases and should be applied to service conducted by the Russian Central Authority in the Occupied Areas.

Legal Dilemmas for the HSC
The competing declarations on Crimea do not identify the HSC provision pursuant to which they are made, nor do they specify the provisions whose legal effect they purport to modify. Arguably, no provision of HSC provides a legal basis for either declaration on Crimea.

1. Provisions for the Designation and Function of a Central Authority

Ukraine’s Declaration on Crimea provides that documents or requests made by Russia or a related authority in the Occupied Areas are void. HSC Articles 2–17 do not provide a basis for the declaration, because the purported invalidity of service conducted by the Russian Central Authority does not directly relate to the designation or function of the Ukrainian Central Authority. It is also likely beyond the scope of HSC Article 18, which allows each contracting state to designate other Authorities and determine their competence. A counterargument may be that Russia’s invasion violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, so Ukraine can invoke Article 18 and claim that Russia and relevant local authorities are illegal and that the documents or requests issued by them are void. Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty over the Occupied Areas is, however, an incidental question to the validity of the documents or requests issued by Russia and the relevant local authorities. Importantly, the HSC does not contain a compromissory clause. This distinguishes it from treaties such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea under which, in some circumstances, tribunals can determine incidental questions “when those issues must be determined in order for the . . . tribunal to be able to rule on the relevant claims.”

For the same reasons, Russia’s Declaration on Crimea lacks a clear basis in HSC Articles 2-18.

2. Provision for Dependent Territories

Article 29 allows a state to extend the application of the HSC to territories “for the international relations of which [the declaring state] is responsible.” The meaning of this language is not clear. Article 56(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) includes a similar phase. Article 56(1) is the so-called “colonial clause,” which prevents the automatic application of the ECHR to non-metropolitan territories and empowers a metropolitan state to declare its application. In 1961, the European Commission extended Article 56(1) to “dependent territories irrespective of domestic legal status.” The concept of dependent territories under the ECHR has been defined by almost exclusive deference to a member state’s unilateral Article 56(1) declaration. In Quark Fishing Ltd. v. United Kingdom, for example, Protocol No. 1 was held inapplicable to a fishing vessel under a Falklands flag because the UK declaration only extended the ECHR, not Protocol No. 1, to islands that belonged to Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) Dependencies.

However, the ECHR’s deferential approach should not apply to HSC Article 29. Argentina is not a member state of the ECHR and the court in Quark Fishing relied on the fact that there was no dispute that the islands were a “territory” within the meaning Article 56(1). As an HSC member state, however, Argentina declared its opposition to the UK’s extension of the HSC to the Falkland Islands, relying on a UN resolution noting a dispute between the two states about sovereignty over the islands. Due to the unclear relationship between Article 29 and international law on the occupation or succession of territories, Article 29 may not serve as a legal basis for the Declarations on Crimea.

Legal Effect of the Declarations
The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) and the Guide to Practice on Reservations to Treaties adopted by the International Law Commission divide declarations formulated by a state under a treaty into reservations and interpretative declarations. A reservation is intended to exclude or modify the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty, while an interpretative declaration is purported to specify or clarify their meaning or scope. Putting aside whether they are affirmatively authorized by the HSC, the Declarations on Crimea should be presumptively permissible. This is because reservations are generally permissible unless an exception under the VCLT is triggered, so interpretative declarations should also be presumptively permissible.

The Declarations on Crimea are best understood as interpretative declarations for the following reasons.

First, the question of territorial application is not part of the functioning ratione materiae of the HSC. The subject matter of the Convention is service. HSC Article 29 allows member states to determine the territorial application of the Convention, suggesting that the Convention does not require its application to be extended to the entire territory of a member state.

Second, a declaration purporting to exclude or extend the application of a treaty as a whole to all or part of its territories without modifying its legal effect is not a reservation. The contents of the respective Declaration on Crimea made by Russia and Ukraine show that both countries seek to clarify the application of the HSC as a whole to the Occupied Areas.

Third, none of the declarants explicitly indicates that the Declaration on Crimea is a condition for them to ratify or continue as a member of the HSC. Consequently, they are not conditional interpretative declarations that should be treated as reservations.

Finally, a reservation would modify the legal effect of the HSC, applying between the reserving state and another state if the latter has not objected within twelve months after it was notified, which is not the case here. It is impossible for other state to tacitly accept the conflicting declarations.

Therefore, because the Declaration on Crimea made by Ukraine, its supporting states, and Russia, respectively, are interpretative declarations rather than reservations, they do not exclude or modify the legal effect of the HSC. Neither do they alter the treaty relations between the declarants and the majority of HSC member states that have not expressed a view on these Declarations.

The Namibia Exception
The VCLT does not provide a timeline for a state to accept another state’s interpretative declaration. However, private parties in international litigation require certainty about service of process in Ukraine under the HSC. The courts of HSC member states should not recognize only the Ukrainian Central Authority for service in Occupied Areas just because their governments are politically aligned with Ukraine. Instead, for the reasons set out below, the Namibia Exception protecting the rights and interests of people in a territory controlled by non-recognized government should be extended to service conducted by the Russian Central Authority and local authorities in the Occupied Areas under the HSC.

The “Namibia Exception” comes from the Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia Notwithstanding Security Council Resolution case. That decision provides that the non-recognition of a state’s administration of a territory due to its violation of international law should not result in depriving the people of that territory of any advantages derived from international cooperation. The courts of HSC member states should recognize not only the Ukrainian Central Authority for service in the Occupied Areas, but also service conducted by the Russian Central Authority and local authorities in the Occupied Areas under the HSC.

First, service under the HSC concerns private rights. Service of process aims to ensure that a defendant is duly informed of a foreign litigation against it. When the defendant resides in the Occupied Areas, service conducted by the Russian Central Authority under the HSC should belong to the realm of the de facto government. Recognizing the conduct of de facto government does not necessarily lead to de jure recognition (e.g., Luther v. Sagor [1921] 3 KB 532 (Can.)).

Second, service through the Russian Central Authority is the only realistic way to serve a defendant in the Occupied Areas who has no agents in a foreign forum, given that Ukraine made a reservation on service by postal channels under HSC Article 10. Ukraine might be advised to withdraw this reservation during war time.

Third, non-recognition of service conducted by the Russian Central Authority in the Occupied Areas would lead to unjust consequences for Ukrainian people in the Occupied Areas who have to comply with the Russian legal order.

A concern is that applying the Namibia Exception to service of process conducted by the Russian Central Authority may harm Ukrainians in the Occupied Area when they are likely not in a position to defend themselves in a court in the United States, China or other foreign countries. The concern is not a good reason to reject the Namibia Exception because it can be addressed by the foreign courts using legal aids, remote hearing, forum non convenience, temporary stay, or other case management methods.

Recommendations for HSC Member States
The HSC Special Commission is a group of experts designated by member states to discuss issues with the practical operation of the Convention. It has issued recommendations for HSC member states regarding the meaning of “civil or commercial matters”, service by electronic means, and other matters. It should publish a recommendation to assist member states in adopting a consistent response to the conflicting Declarations on Crimea.

The legal nature of Ukraine’s and Russia’s Declarations on Crimea are different. Ukraine’s Declaration on Crimea is an amplifying interpretative declaration, which intends to address new events not covered by a treaty. Russia’s invasion created such an event: the Ukrainian Central Authority can no longer effectuate service in the Occupied Areas. In contrast, Russia’s Declaration on Crimea is an interpretation contra legem. This is because Russia’s occupation of Ukraine violated international law on the prohibition of the unlawful use of force, which is contrary to the principle of good faith. Although states are free to decide whether to acknowledge Russia’s interpretation contra legem, the International Court of Justice has rendered a decision condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although it does not bind all states, it shows that the international community considers the invasion as a violation of international law. The Special Commission should take this opportunity to assist member states in adopting consistent approaches to apply the HSC to serve defendants in Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia.

See Full text here

Axel Flessner in memoriam

We are sad to announce that one of Germany’s preeminent scholars of private international law and European private law, Axel Flessner, passed away on 26 November 2022 at the age of 86.

Axel Flessner was a Professor of German, European and International Private Law and Comparative Law at Humboldt-University in Berlin. He contributed to the development of private international law and European private law through countless publications, including several monographs (e.g. “Interessenjurisprudenz im Internationalen Privatrecht”), as well as through his participation in various international committees. As one of the editors of the “Zeitschrift für Europäisches Privatrecht” (Journal of European Private Law) and as the spokesperson for the graduate college “European Private and Economic Law” at Humboldt-University, he left a lasting mark in European private (international) law.

Axel Flessner was held in extremely high esteem both by his colleagues and by his students. With his death, the European private (international) law community loses an outstanding scholar, a great colleague and a convinced European citizen.

Our thoughts are with his family.

List of publications on South African private international law as from 2020

LIST OF PUBLICATIONS ON SOUTH AFRICAN PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW AS FROM 2020

Adams “Choice of Islamic law in the context of the wider lex mercatoria: an express choice of non-State law in contract” 2021 Journal of South African Law 59.

Adams “The UCP as a choice of non-State law in international commercial contracts” 2022 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 1.

Adams and Kruger “Private international law and choice of law clauses” in Hutchison and Myburgh (eds) International Commercial Contracts: Autonomy and Regulation in a Dynamic System of Lex Mercatoria (Edward Elgar, 2020) 110.

Bouwers Tacit Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts – A Global Comparative Study (Schulthess, 2021) 68-75.

Coleman “Assessing the efficacy of forum selection agreements in Commonwealth Africa” 2020 Journal of Comparative Law in Africa 1.

Coleman “Reflecting on the role and impact of the constitutional value of ubuntu on the concept of contractual freedom and autonomy in South Africa” 2021 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 1.

Coleman “Contractual freedom and autonomy under the CISG and the UNIDROIT Principles as legislative and judicial guidance in Commonwealth Africa” 2021 South African Mercantile Law Journal 319.

Fredericks “Contractual capacity in African private international law” in Omlor (ed) Weltbürgerliches Recht. Festschrift für Michael Martinek zum 70. Geburtstag (CH Beck, 2020) 199.

Neels “The African Principles on the Law Applicable to International Commercial Contracts – a first drafting experiment” 2020 Uniform Law Review 426.

Neels “An experiment in the systematization of South African conflicts rules” in Omlor (ed) Weltbürgerliches Recht. Festschrift für Michael Martinek zum 70. Geburtstag (CH Beck, 2020) 529.

Neels “Characterisation and liberative prescription (the limitation of actions) in private international law – Canadian doctrine in the Eswatini courts (the phenomenon of dual cumulation)” 2021 Journal of Private International Law 361.

Neels “South African perspectives on the Hague Principles” in Girsberger, Kadner Graziano and Neels (gen eds) Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts. Global Perspectives on the Hague Principles (OUP, 2021) 350.

Neels “International commercial law emerging in Africa” 2022 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal Special Edition Festschrift Charl Hugo http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25i0a14381.

Neels and Fredericks “The African Principles of Commercial Private International Law and the Hague Principles” in Girsberger, Kadner Graziano and Neels (gen eds) Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts. Global Perspectives on the Hague Principles (OUP, 2021) 239.

Neels and Fredericks “Recognition and enforcement of Slovenian judgments in South Africa – contractual claims and supranational or international jurisdiction” in Fourie and Škerl (eds) Universality of the Rule of Law. Slovenian and South African Perspectives (Sun Press, 2021) 193.

Neels and Fredericks “Covid-19 regulations as overriding mandatory provisions in private international law – a comparison of regional, supranational and international instruments with the proposed African Principles on the Law Applicable to International Commercial Contracts” in Watney (ed) The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Law and Related Disciplines (UJ Press, 2022) 1.

Obiri-Korang “Party autonomy: promoting legal certainty and predictability in international commercial contracts through choice of law (applicable rules of law)” 2022 Journal of South African Law 106.

Obiri-Korang “Primary connecting factors considered by South African courts to determine applicable law of international contracts on the sale of goods” 2022 Lex Portus 7.

Okorley “The possible impact of the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial matters on private international law in Ghana” 2022 UCC Law Journal 85.

Schoeman “South Africa: time for reform” in Keyes (ed) Optional Choice of Court Agreements in Private International Law (Springer, 2020) 347.

Wethmar-Lemmer “Recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards under the International Arbitration Act 17 of 2017” 2019 SA Merc LJ 378 (appeared in 2020).

Wethmar-Lemmer “The new South African international arbitration landscape – advances and remaining conflict of laws challenges” in Omlor (ed) Weltbürgerliches Recht. Festschrift für Michael Martinek zum 70 Geburtstag (CH Beck, 2020) 867.

Wethmar-Lemmer “International commercial arbitration in South Africa and the CISG” 2022 Uniform Commercial Code Law Journal 311.

 

Supreme Court of Canada on International Child Abduction

Written by Stephen G.A. Pitel, Faculty of Law, Western University

The Supreme Court of Canada has released its decision in F v N, 2022 SCC 51 (available here) and the decision offers some important observations about the law on international child abduction. The court held 5-4 that two young children taken by their mother from UAE to Ontario are to be returned to their father in UAE.

The father and mother were engaged in a dispute over custody rights of the children. The court noted that in the removal/return context, it was not deciding the custody issue but rather deciding which court – Ontario or UAE – would decide that issue [para 1]. Because UAE is not a party to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the issue of whether the children should be returned to UAE arose under Ontario legislation (Children’s Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c C.12), though the court noted similarities between the two regimes [para 52].

Read more

Volume 2, Issue 1 of UCC Law Journal 2022

I was recently alerted to the publication of Volume 2, Issue 1 of UCC Law Journal 2022, which contains articles on Ghanian law. One article in the journal is focused on our beloved subject of private international law:

S Okorley, The Possible Impact of The 2019 Hague Convention on The Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters on the Grounds of International Competence in Ghana

The 2019 Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters is a product of the Judgments Project of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The Hague Judgment Convention has the advantage of providing business partners with a simple, efficient, and predictable structure with regards to the recognition and enforcement regime; as well as reducing related cost. More specifically, the convention fosters predictability and certainty in international commercial relations by enabling international commercial partners to be precisely informed of the grounds on which the decision of the court of one contracting state will be recognised or enforced in the territory of another contracting state. The Convention offers a wide range of jurisdictional filters for the purposes of recognition and enforcement of judgments from Contracting States. This article discusses the modern and innovative grounds of international competence introduced by the Hague Convention and its potential impact on the grounds of international competence for Ghana if Ghana ratifies the convention. The article recommends the ratification of the 2019 Hague Judgment Convention as it would be of enormous benefit to Ghana whose grounds of international competence when it comes to recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments seems antiquated and confined only to residence, submission and more controversially, the presence of the judgment debtor in the jurisdiction of the foreign court.

The article is freely accessible, or open access. The article is based on the author’s LL.M dissertation that was undertaken at the University of Johannesburg under the supervision of Professor Jan Neels.

Chinese Supreme People’s Court Issued New Judicial Interpretation on Hierarchical Jurisdiction on Foreign-Related Disputes

LIN Jidong, Wuhan University Institute of International Law

  1. Background

The Chinese Supreme People’s Court (hereinafter “SPC“) issued “SPC’s Regulation on Several Matters Concerning the Jurisdiction of Foreign-Related Disputes” (hereinafter “Regulation 2022“),[1] which will enter into force on 1st January 2023. The Regulation focuses on hierarchical jurisdiction in cross-border litigation, although its title does not explicitly say so. According to SPC, the Regulation responds to the new circumstance of open-up after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It has great value in protecting the right of parties, both foreign and domestic, making litigation more convenient and improving the quality and efficiency of the trial of foreign-related civil and commercial disputes.

  1. Main Content

The Content can be divided into different categories according to the goals of Regulation 2022.

?1?Convenience and Efficiency

One of the most important goals of Regulation 2022 is to improve the efficiency of trial and bring convenience to the parties. To achieve this goal, Regulation 2022 has rearranged the hierarchical jurisdiction. Regulation 2022 generally authorises all the grass-roots courts to hear foreign-related disputes (Art. 1) and limits the jurisdiction of intermediate and higher courts (Art. 2 & Art. 3).

Initially, the hierarchical jurisdiction of foreign-related disputes was regulated by the 2002 SPC’s Regulation on Several Matters Concerning the Jurisdiction of Foreign-Related Litigations (hereinafter “Regulation 2002”).[2] Under Regulation 2002, only a few intermediate courts and grass-root courts were authorised to hear foreign-related disputes. In the past 20 years, the SPC has authorised more and more intermediate courts to hear foreign-related disputes according to the applications of higher courts. Nowadays, most intermediate courts have the jurisdiction to hear foreign-related disputes. But still, only a few grass-roots courts have such jurisdiction.

Such an arrangement has some adverse impacts. Firstly, the parties would have to sue in intermediate courts. Ordinarily, there is only one intermediate court in one city. Such an arrangement means that all the citizens would have to sue in one court instead of suing in their local grass-roots courts. This would inevitably bring inconvenience to the parties. Secondly, the intermediate courts may also overload by a large number of cases, which would decrease the efficiency of trials. In the past 20 years, the number of foreign-related cases has significantly increased. In 2022, the number of cases seized by courts of the first instance has exceeded 17 thousand. Such a circumstance not only increases the pressure on the judges but also decreases the efficiency of trials. It should also be noted that according to Art. 277 of the PRC Civil Procedure Law, different from domestic trials, foreign-related trials would not be subject to the statutory time limit. Thus, parties in foreign-related disputes may have to wait longer to receive judgments.

The Regulation 2022 enables nearly all grass-root courts to hear cross-border disputes, which brings convenience to the parties and reduces the burden of intermediate courts.

?2?Quality and Professionalism

Regulation 2022 also takes measures to ensure and improve the quality and professionalism of foreign-related trials. These efforts stem from the achievement of the judicial system reform, especially the establishment of the judge quota system. The judge quota system re-selects competent judges from the existing judges. Only limited judges who passed the re-selection would be authorised to hear the trial based on their qualification, professionalism, specialisation, and experience. The reform enhanced the overall ability of the judges and increased the percentage of judges with the knowledge base and competence to hear foreign-related disputes.

The efforts to improve the quality and professionalism in Regulation 2022 could be divided into two perspectives. On the one hand, Regulation 2022 reserves the centralised jurisdiction, which originated from Regulation 2002, with some adjustments (Art. 4). On the other hand, Regulation 2022 makes clear that foreign-related disputes should be heard in a specialised tribunal or collegial panel (Art. 5).

a. Centralised Jurisdiction

The centralised jurisdiction centralises jurisdiction of foreign-related disputes #in intermediate courts. Traditionally, centralised jurisdiction would have impact in both hierarchical and territorial aspects. From the hierarchical aspect, the centralised jurisdiction could deprive the grass-roots courts of jurisdiction to hear foreign-related disputes. From the territorial aspect, the centralised jurisdiction allows the appointed intermediate court to hear the dispute across its administrative division. Assume that Province A consists of five cities: City A, B, C, D, and E. If courts in City A were to be appointed to exercise the centralised jurisdiction, then the courts in City A would have jurisdiction over all foreign-related disputes, including those cases which courts in City B, C, D and E should hear.

The centralised jurisdiction could improve the quality of the trials. Firstly, the centralised jurisdiction could ensure that some experienced and better-trained judges would hear the cases. In general, foreign-related disputes are more complex than domestic disputes and thus would pose more challenges to the judges. The courts appointed to exercise centralised jurisdiction usually have better-trained judges and, therefore, would be more competent to hear foreign-related disputes. Furthermore, there may be a huge gap in the quantities of foreign-related disputes among different courts. The centralised jurisdiction would also let those experienced courts hear the disputes and improve the quality of trials. Secondly, the centralised jurisdiction would increase the consistency of the judgements. Courts in PRC are not bound by precedents. The centralised jurisdiction allows the same courts or tribunal to hear similar cases in one region to achieve the consistency of judgements. Thirdly, the centralised jurisdiction would reduce local protectionism. The centralised jurisdiction may prevent local government’s intervention in trial and create a relatively neutral place for the parties by moving the local party out from their home court.

However, the centralised jurisdiction may negatively affect efficiency. Thus, Regulation 2022 tries to strike a balance between professionalism and efficiency. Firstly, centralised jurisdiction is an exception that applies in limited situations instead of being a general rule. Centralised jurisdiction may only be granted if higher courts consider it necessary and acquire SPC’s approval. Secondly, the impact of centralised jurisdiction is limited to the territorial aspect and would no longer prejudice the hierarchical jurisdiction. According to the SPC, there would be only two categories of centralised jurisdiction: the centralised jurisdiction of grass-roots courts and the centralised jurisdiction of intermediate courts. The centralised jurisdiction of grass-roots courts means that one authorised grass-roots court would have jurisdiction over all the first instance foreign-related cases in the region subject to its prior intermediate court’s jurisdiction. The other type of centralised jurisdiction is the centralised jurisdiction of intermediate courts. An authorised intermediate court could hear all the cases in the region subject to its prior high court’s jurisdiction, including trial of first instance and appeal from grass-roots courts.

b. Specialised Tribunal

Regulation 2022 makes clear that the foreign-related dispute should be heard in a specialised tribunal or collegial panel (Art. 5). This provision tries to improve the professionalism of the trial by centralising all the cases into a tribunal or collegial consisting of experienced and specialised judges in the court. In practice, several courts have already established such a tribunal. However, since Regulation 2022 authorises all the grass-roots courts to hear foreign-related disputes, it is necessary to ensure that each court is properly staffed to establish an appropriate division of responsibility of the tribunals.

Such a requirement was also prescribed in previous judicial interpretations. However, those interpretations were not as definite and broad as the present one. For instance, the SPC’s Notice of 2017 on the Clarification of the Hierarchical Jurisdiction of the First Trial of the Foreign-Related Disputes and Several Issues concerning Belongings of Cases has listed several cases be heard by a specialised tribunal or collegial panel.[3] The SPC’s Notice of 2017 on Several Issues concerning Belongings of Judicial Review of Arbitration also prescribed that the judicial review of arbitration should be subject to a specialised tribunal or collegial panel that takes charge of trials of foreign-related disputes.[4] Compared with these previous regulations, the provision in Regulation 2022 is more general and has a broader coverage.

?3?Compatibility between Regulations

Regulation 2022 also establishes some rules to achieve compatibility between different regulations.

Firstly, Regulation 2022 reforms the correspondent rules in foreign-related disputes to be compatible with the newly reformed hierarchical jurisdiction of domestic disputes. The standard of high courts’ jurisdiction to hear the first trial of foreign-related disputes is now the same as their jurisdiction to hear domestic cases. The Regulation also raises the standard of intermediate courts’ jurisdiction to hear the first trial of foreign-related disputes and reduces the difference in this aspect with domestic cases. These would prevent the situation that most domestic cases would be heard in grass-roots courts while foreign-related cases would be heard in intermediate courts, even though the latter’s value is lower.

Secondly, Regulation 2022 has a clear scope of applications. In the past, the scope of application of Regulation 2002 is vague. Regulation 2002 applies to several listed types of foreign-related cases but keeps silent on its application to the other types of foreign-related cases. Regulation 2002 also excludes its application to “trade disputes occurred in border provinces and foreign-related real estate disputes”. However, there was not a uniform understanding of the scope of these two types of cases. In contrast, Regulation 2022 generally applies to all foreign-related disputes with some explicit exclusions, including maritime disputes, foreign-related IP disputes, foreign-related environmental damages disputes and foreign-related environmental public litigation (Art. 6). The maritime disputes would be subject to Maritime Court as a specialised court in China, and its hierarchical jurisdiction would be governed by Maritime Litigation Procedure Law. The hierarchical jurisdiction of the other three types of disputes is subject to their respective judicial interpretation of SPC.

?4?Predictability

Regulation 2022 enhances the predictability of the hierarchical jurisdiction. Before the new Regulation, SPC has made many individual authorisations for centralised jurisdiction of intermediate or grass-roots courts. However, due to the differences in the levels of economic development, the authorisations vary between regions. In some regions, all grass-roots courts maybe competent to hear foreign-related disputes; in other regions, only a few intermediate courts would have jurisdiction. It causes confusion in practice and the parties have to do research on hierarchical jurisdiction in each specific region to ensure they bring the case to the right court.

After the release of Regulation 2022, all the grass-roots courts would generally have jurisdiction to hear foreign-related disputes. The centralised jurisdiction would be limited in territorial aspect and would be publicized in advance, according to paragraph 2, Art. 4 of Regulation 2022. Regulation 2022 will abolish previous regulations and serve as a comprehensive guideline on hierarchical jurisdiction of foreign-related disputes (Art. 9). Regulation 2022 will enhance the predictability of the parties.

 

  1. Conclusion

Chinese hierarchical jurisdiction in foreign-related disputes has been one of the most unclear and confusing matters in practice. Regulation 2022 has made significant progress in hierarchical jurisdiction. It improves the convenience and easy access to justice in foreign-related disputes, and balances other interests including professionalism and predictability. It manifests China’s determination to continue opening up in the current era by providing a more user-friendly judicial environment to parties in the international trade and commerce.

[1] Supreme People’s Court’s Regulation on Several Matters Concerning the Jurisdiction of Foreign-Related Disputes, [2022] Fa Shi No. 18.

[2] Supreme People’s Court’s Regulation on Several Matters Concerning the Jurisdiction of Foreign-Related Litigations, [2002] Fa Shi No. 5.

[3] Supreme People’s Court’s Notice of 2017 on the Clarification of the Hierarchical Jurisdiction of the First Trial of the Foreign-Related Disputes and Several Issues concerning Belongings of Cases, [2017] Fa No. 359, para. 2.

[4] Supreme People’s Court’s Notice of 2017 on Several Issues concerning Belongings of Judicial Review of Arbitration, [2017] Fa No. 152, para. 2.

HCCH Monthly Update: November 2022

Conventions & Instruments

On 1 November 2022, the 2000 Protection of Adults Convention entered into force for Greece. The Convention currently has 14 Contracting Parties. More information is available here.

On 11 November 2022, Malta signed the 2000 Protection of Adults Convention, during the first meeting of the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the Convention. The Convention will enter into force for Malta further to the deposit of its instrument of ratification, in accordance with Article 53 of the Convention. More information is available here.

On 14 November 2022, Botswana deposited its instrument of accession to the 1980 Child Abduction Convention, 1993 Adoption Convention, and 2007 Child Support Convention. With the accession of Botswana, the Child Abduction Convention now has 103 Contracting Parties. It will enter into force for Botswana on 1 February 2023. For the Adoption Convention, with the accession of Botswana it now has 105 Contracting Parties. The Convention will enter into force for Botswana on 1 March 2023. Finally, following the accession of Botswana 45 States and the European Union are bound by the Child Support Convention. It will enter into force for Botswana on 16 November 2023. More information is available here.

 

Meetings & Events

On 8 November 2022, the HCCH’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific hosted the workshop “HCCH Conventions Supporting Transnational Litigation in Civil or Commercial Matters”, in partnership with the Department of Justice of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR. The workshop was held during Hong Kong Legal Week 2022, in celebration of the tenth Anniversary of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. More information is available here.

From 9 to 11 November 2022, the First Meeting of the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the 2000 Protection of Adults Convention was held in The Hague, attended by over 100 participants, in person and via videoconference, representing Contracting Parties, HCCH Members, and Observers. The meeting resulted in the adoption of over 70 Conclusions & Recommendations, which provide guidance to (prospective) Contracting Parties on a wide range of issues relating to the implementation and practical operation of this Convention. More information is available here.

 

Vacancies

Applications are now open for the position of Head of Human Resources (part-time, 75% or less). The deadline for the submission of applications is 9 December 2022. More information is available here.

 

These monthly updates are published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), providing an overview of the latest developments. More information and materials are available on the HCCH website.

Parental Child Abduction to Islamic Countries by Nazia Yaqub

This book by Nazia Yaqub is an addition to the Hart series, in which several books on international child abduction have been published. The author investigates Islamic law, discussing where relevant the history and the different schools, and the specific legal rules of the selected States that have not acceded to the Hague Child Abduction Convention (1980), as well as Morocco, which has acceded. She also examines whether the ratification of the Hague Child Abduction Convention by more States with Islamic legal systems would offer an improvement to the protection of children’s rights. The author analyses the child’s right to have their best interests taken as a primary consideration, the child’s right to be given the opportunity to be heard, and the child’s right to non-discrimination. The analysis places not only Islamic law under scrutiny but also the Hague Convention.

Besides using policy documents and international literature, she has also interviewed persons who were involved in child abductions.

The difficult discussion about the best interests of the child, including the issues that arise in this regard under the Hague Child Abduction Convention and the law in the Islamic States is presented in a nuanced way, keeping to the central theme of children’s rights. The detailed and rigorous analysis explores Islamic law, utilises case studies garnered from the empirical research and the Hague Convention. The book also sets out various models of child participation and shows how this right is only partially respected in Islamic law States and by the Hague Convention. It is argued that a child-centred approach requires separate representation for children.

The book also discusses non-discrimination, considering not only children’s rights but also other human rights instruments, especially concerning the rights of women (and girls). The author does not only consider discrimination to which children are subjected but also discrimination of mothers that directly influence children. This leads to an interesting and important analysis regarding the cultural nature of children’s rights and the reality of the relation nature of children’s rights with their mother/primary carer. Considerable thought is given to the ground for refusal in Article 20 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. What also emerges through the analysis is the changing gendered dimension of parental abductions and the problematic issue of abduction by primary carers.

Nazia Yaqub is a lecturer in law at Leeds Beckett University, UK.

 

Oct 2022   |   9781509939114   |   304pp   |   Hbk   |    RRP: £85 / $115

Discount Price: £68 / $92

Order online at www.bloomsbury.com  – use the code GLR AP3UK for UK orders and GLR AP3US for US orders to get 20% off!

70th Anniversary of the UIHJ

The International Union of Judicial Officers / Union internationale des huissiers de justice (UIHJ) is the highest representative body of judicial officers in the world. On the occasion of its annual Permanent Council, the Union  celebrated its 70th Anniversary in Paris on November 24, 2022, at the Espace Niemeyer.

A full report of the celebration agenda and activities is available here.

LEX & FORUM Vol. 3/2022

This editorial has been prepared by Prof. Paris Arvanitakis, Aristotle University of  Thessaloniki, Greece.

The European Regulations of Private and Procedural International Law are part of an enclosed legislative system. Since the early stages of European integration, third countries, and in particular the USA, had expressed their objections concerning the European integration process, questioning whether it reflects a “nationalistic” character, certainly not in the sense of ethnocentric provisions, since the European legislator had chosen the domicile  instead of citizenship as the fundamental ground of jurisdiction from the beginning, but mostly because European law applied extreme provisions, such as the exorbitant jurisdiction, only against persons residing outside the EU, as well as the inability of third countries to make use of procedural options provided to member states (see Kerameus, Erweiterung des EuGVÜ-Systems und Verhältnis zu Drittstaaten, Studia Juridica V, 2008, pp. 483 ff., 497). However, the EU never intended a global jurisdictional unification. It simply envisioned a regional legislative internal harmonization in favor of its member states. Like any regional unification, EU law involves discriminatory treatment against those who fall outside its scope. But even when the EU regulates disputes between member states and third countries (for example, the Rome Regulations on applicable law), it does so, not to bind third countries to EU law -nor it could do so-, but to avoid divergent solutions among its member states in their relations with third countries. ?owever, as the issue on the relationship between European Regulations and third countries continues to expand, a precise demarcation of the boundaries of application of European rules, which often differ even within the same legislative text, acquires practical importance.

The “Focus” of the present issue intends to highlight these discrepancies, as well as the corresponding convergences between European Regulations of Private / Procedural International Law and third countries. During an online conference on this topic, which took place on the 29th of September 2022, we had the great honor to host a discussion between well-known academics and leading domestic lawyers, who have dealt with this topic in depth. We had the honor to welcome the presentations of: Ms. Astrid Stadler, Professor of Civil Law, Civil Procedure, Private International and Comparative Law at the University of Konstanz/Germany, who presented a general introduction on the topic (‘Ein Überblick auf die Drittstaatenproblematik in der Brüssel Ia VO’); Mr. Symeon Symeonides, a distinguished Professor of Law, at the Willamette University USA, , who presented an extremely interesting analysis on  ‘An Outsider’s View of the Brussels Ia, Rome I, and Rome II Regulations’; Dr. Georgios Safouris, Judge and Counselor of Justice of Greece at the Permanent Greek Representation in the EU, , , who examined the application of the Brussels Ia and Brussels IIa Regulations in disputes with third countries, from the lens of the CJEU jurisprudence; Mr. Nikitas Hatzimichael ,Professor at the Law Department of the University of Cyprus, , who developed the important doctrinal issue of the exercise of judge’s discretion in the procedural framework of the European Regulations in relation to third countries;  Ms. Anastasia Kalantzi, PhD Candidate at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who dealt with the key issue of European lis pendens rules and third countries; and, finally Mr. Dimitrios Tsikrikas, Professor of Civil Procedure at the University of Athens, who developed the fundamental issue of the legal consequences of court judgments vis-à-vis third countries. On the topic of the relations between European Regulations and third countries, the expert opinion of the author of this editorial is also included in the present issue, focusing on multi-party disputes in cases where some of the defendants are EU residents and others residents of a third country.

In the “Praefatio”, Mr. Nikolaos Nikas, Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Law of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki presents his thoughts on what is the “next stage on the path to European procedural harmonization: the digitization of justice delivery systems“. In the part of the jurisprudence, two recent judgments of the CJEU are presented: the decision No C-572/21 (CC/VO) regarding international jurisdiction on parental responsibility, when the usual residence of the child was legally transferred during the trial to a third state, that is a signatory to the 1996 Convention, , with a comment by the Judge Mr. I. Valmantonis, and the important decision No C-700/20 (London Steam/Spain), which is analyzed by  Mr. Komninos Komnios,  Professor at the International Hellenic University, (“Arbitration and Brussels Ia Regulation: Descent of the ‘Spanish Armada’ in the English legal order?”). Regarding domestic jurisprudence, the present issue includes the Supreme Court judgment No. 1181/2022, which demonstrates the incompatibility of the relevant provision of the new Greek CPC on service abroad with EU and ECHR rules, with a case comment by the undersigned, as well as a judgment of the County Court of Piraeus (73/2020), regarding the binding nature of the parties’ request for an oral presentation in the European Small Claims procedure, with a comment by Judge Ms. K. Chronopoulou. Finally, interesting issues of private international law on torts are also highlighted in the decisions of the Athens First Instance Court No 102/2019 and No 4608/2020, commented by Dr. N. Zaprianos.

Lex & Forum renews its scientific appointment with its readers for the next (eighth) issue, focusing on family disputes of a cross-border nature.