Author: Howard M. Holtzmann*
Published: December 2003
Dispute Resolution and Litigation
Description: The claims that I will be discussing today differ fundamentally from those typically resolved in international arbitration. Whereas in most international arbitrations, claims arise from separate transactions or events, the claims referred to herein as “mass claims” arise when a large number of parties suffer losses caused by the same historic event or diplomatic crisis. Since 1980 at least ten tribunals or commissions have been created to resolve what I estimate to be 4-1/2 million mass claims.
These Mass Claims tribunals and commissions have been created in a number of different ways – some by treaties, others by action of the United Nations, still others by agreements of non-governmental organizations. There have even been two created pursuant to the settlement of a class action under United States law which are being supervised by a U.S. federal district court in Brooklyn.
The first of the new processes to resolve mass claims was created by a treaty between the United States and Iran as a key element of the settlement of the crisis that arose when United States diplomats were held hostage in Teheran. It provided for creation of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal to resolve thousands of claims resulting from the Islamic Revolution in Iran, including claims of business entities due to nationalizations or alleged breaches of contracts, as well as certain claims of the governments against each other. The root cause of all these claims was similar, and it was appropriate that a single tribunal should be established to resolve them.
The war resulting from Iraq’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait led to a resolution of the U.N. Security Council creating another new process, known as the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), to compensate millions of individuals from a large number of countries who had been working in Iraq or Kuwait and who incurred losses when they were forced to depart, or who suffered death or injury, as well as claims of businesses whose property was damaged or whose commercial activities were disrupted as a direct result of the first Gulf war.
*Judge, Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal 1981-1994, currently substitute; Member, Claims Resolution Tribunals for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland; Chair, Mass Claims Steering Committee of Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague. Based on an address at the Research Conference on Domestic and International Arbitration at the Institute of Judicial Administration at New York University School of Law.
Copyright Howard M. Holtzmann © 2002.