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Abaclat v. Argentina: Condition of Prior Domestic Litigation a Mere Admissibility Issue?

In this post, MARIA ATHANASIOU questions the majority decision in Abaclat v. Argentina, which held that a condition for prior domestic litigation is not a jurisdictional issue for an investment arbitration tribunal.

In the recent Decision on Jurisdiction and Admissibility in Abaclat and others v Argentina the majority of the ICSID tribunal affirmed its jurisdiction over claims alleging breach of the Argentina-Italy BIT of approximately 60,000 Italian investors. The tribunal affirmed its jurisdiction despite the undisputed fact that the claimants had not submitted their dispute to Argentine courts for 18 months prior to commencing ICSID arbitration as required by the dispute resolution clause (Article 8 ) of the BIT. In fact the tribunal treated pre-arbitration requirements in international investment arbitration disputes as matters of admissibility as opposed to ones of jurisdiction and as such, placed itself in the minority that views the 18-month domestic litigation requirement as anything but a condition of the host state’s consent to international investment arbitration.

Thus far, ICSID and non-ICSID tribunals have by majority treated prior domestic litigation requirements as matters of jurisdiction. For example Maffezini v Spain (Decision on Jurisdiction); Wintershall v Argentina (Award); Impregilo v Argentina (Award; holding that the 18-month domestic litigation requirement of the Argentina-Italy BIT is “a mandatory – but limited in time – jurisdictional requirement before a right to bring a case to ICSID can be exercised” and that therefore, non-compliance with such requirement leads to lack of jurisdiction). Read the rest of this entry

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