Genocide by Expropriation – New Tendencies in US State Immunity Law for Art-Related Holocaust Litigations

On 10 July 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rendered its judgment in the matter of Alan Philipps et al. v. the Federal Republic of Germany and the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

This case involves a claim by heirs of Holocaust victims for restitution of the „Welfenschatz“ (Guelph Treasure), a collection of medieval relics and devotional art housed for generations in the Cathedral of Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany. This treasure is now on display at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin (Museum of Decorative Arts) which is run by the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz. The value of the treasure is estimated to amount to USD 250 million (according to the claim for damages raised in the proceedings). Read more

Asser’s Enduring Vision: The HCCH Celebrates its 125th Anniversary

By the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law

On 12 September 1893, Tobias Asser, Dutch Jurist, Scholar and Statesman, realised a vision: he opened the first Session of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). Today, exactly 125 years later, the HCCH celebrates Asser’s vision and the occasion of this First Session with a solemn ceremony in the presence of his Majesty The King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. Read more

The race is on: German reference to the CJEU on the interpretation of Art. 14 Rome I Regulation with regard to third-party effects of assignments

By Prof. Dr. Peter Mankowski, University of Hamburg

Sometimes the unexpected simply happens.  Rome I aficionados will remember that the entire Rome I project was on the brink of failure since Member States could not agree on the only seemingly technical and arcane issue of the law applicable to the third-party effects of assignments of claims. An agreement to disagree saved the project in the last minute, back then. Of course, this did not make the issue vanish – and this issues concerns billion euro-markets in the financial industry. Read more

German Supreme Court refuses to enforce Polish judgment for violation of the German ordre public

It doesn’t happen too often that a Member State refuses enforcement of a judgment rendered in another Member State for violation of the ordre public. But in a decision published yesterday exactly this happened: The German Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof – BGH) refused to recognize and enforce a Polish judgment under the Brussels I Regulation (before the recast) arguing that enforcement would violate the German public policy, notable freedom of speech and freedom of the press as embodied in the German Constitution. With this decision, the highest German court adds to the already difficult debate about atrocities committed by Germans in Poland during WW II.

The facts of the case were as follows:

IM Skaugen SE v MAN Diesel & Turbo SE [2018] SGHC 123

In IM Skaugen SE v MAN Diesel & Turbo SE [2018] SGHC 123, the Singapore High Court had the occasion to discuss and resolve various meaty private international law issues. The facts concerned the alleged negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation by the defendants on the fuel consumption of a specific model of engine that was sold and installed into ships owned by the plaintiffs. The issue before the court was whether the Singapore courts had jurisdiction over the misrepresentation claim. The defendants were German and Norwegian incorporated companies so the plaintiffs applied for leave to serve the writ out of Singapore. This entailed fulfilling a 3 stage process, following English common law rules: (1) a good arguable case that the case falls within one of the heads set out in the Rules of Court, Order 11, (2) a serious issue to be tried on the merits, and (3) Singapore is forum conveniens on applying the test set out in The Spiliada [1987] AC 460. Stages (1) and (3) were at issue in the case.

The Russian Supreme Court’s guidelines on private international law

The Russian Supreme Court has published the English translation of the guidelines on Russian private international law, issued in Russian on 27 June 2017 (ruling No 23 ‘On Consideration by Commercial Courts of Economic Disputes Involving Cross-Border Relations’).

The ruling is binding on all the lower courts in Russia: from time to time the Russian Supreme Court gathers in a plenary session to discuss the case law approaches to controversial matters in a particular field of law. It then adopts binding guidelines to ensure a uniform application of law in the future (this role of the Supreme Court is based on art. 126 of the Constitution and arts. 2 and 5 of the law on the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 2 February 2014). Read more

Towards a European Commercial Court?

The prospect of Brexit has led a number of countries on the European continent to take measures designed to make their civil justice systems more attractive for international litigants: In Germany, the so-called “Justice Initiative Frankfurt”, consisting of lawyers, judges, politicians and academics, has resulted in the creation of a special chamber for commercial matters at the District Court in Frankfurt which will, if both parties agree, conduct the proceedings largely in English (see here). In France, an English-language chamber for international commercial matters was established at the Cour d’appel in Paris, adding a second instance to the English-speaking chamber of commerce at the Tribunal de commerce in Paris (see here). In the Netherlands, the Netherlands Commercial Court and the Netherlands Commercial Court of Appeal will soon begin their work as special chambers of the Rechtbank and the Gerechtshof Amsterdam (see here). And in Belgium, the government plans to establish a Brussels International Business Court (see here). Clearly: the prospect of Brexit has stirred up the European market for international litigation.

Read more

Talaq v Greek public policy: Operation successful, patient dead…

A talaq divorce is rarely knocking at the door of Greek courts. A court in Thessaloniki dismissed an application for the recognition of an Egyptian talaq, invoking the public policy clause, despite the fact that the application was filed by the wife. You can find more information about the case, and check my brief comment here.

What puzzles me though is whether there are more jurisdictions sharing the same view. Personally I don’t feel at ease with this ruling for a number of reasons. But prior to that, a couple of clarifications:

  1. This case bears no resemblance to the Sahyouni saga. The spouses have no double nationality: The husband is an Egyptian, the wife a Greek national.

From the editors’ desk: Relaunch of conflictoflaws.net!

Dear readers,

Conflictoflaws.net has been around for 12 years by now. It has developed into one of the most relevant platforms for the exchange of information and the discussion of topics relating to conflict of laws in a broad sense. And while the world has changed a lot during the past 12 years the look of conflictoflaws.net has basically remained the same. Today this is going to change: Read more

Islamic Marriage and English Divorce – a new Decision from the English High Court

In England, almost all married Muslim women have had a nikah, a religious celebration. By contrast, more than half of them have not also gone through a separate civil ceremony, as required under UK law. The often unwelcome consequence is that, under UK law, they are not validly married and therefore insufficiently protected under UK law: they cannot claim maintenance, and they cannot get a divorce as long as the marriage is viewed, in the eyes of the law, as a nullity.

The government has tried for some time to remedy this, under suspicious gazes from conservative Muslims on the one hand, secularists on the other. A 2014 report (the ‘Aurat report’), which  demonstrated, by example of 50 cases, the hardships that could follow from the fact that nikahs are not recognized, found attention in the government party. An independent review into the application of sharia law in England and law, instigated by Theresa May (then the Home Secretary) in 2016 and published earlier this year, recommended to ensure that all Islamic marriages would also be registered; it also recommended campaigns for increased awareness.

Such steps do not help where the wedding already took place and has not been registered. A new decision by the High Court brings partial relief. Nasreen Akhter (who is a solicitor and thus certainly not an uneducated woman ignorant of the law) asked to be divorced from her husband of twenty years, Mohammed Shabaz Khan. Khan’s defense was that the marriage, which had been celebrated as a nikah in west London, existed only under Islamic, not under UK law, and therefore divorce under UK law was not possible. Indeed, up until now, the nikah had been considered a non-marriage which the law could ignore, because it did not even purport to comply with the requirements of English law. The High Court was unwilling to presume the lived marriage as valid. However, drawing at length on Human Rights Law, it declared the marriage void under sec 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and granted the wife a decree of nullity. This has important consequences: Unlike a non-marriage, a void marriage allows a petitioner to obtain financial remedies.

The decision represents a huge step towards the protection of women whose Islamic marriages are not registered. It makes it harder for men to escape their obligations under civil law. At the same time, the decision is not unproblematic: it refuses recognition of an Islamic marriage as such, while at the same time, under certain conditions, treating it like a recognized marriage. In all likelihood, only registration will create the needed certainty.