Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2011
The general topic of legal claims against any foreign nation for debts owed to other nations raises an exceptionally long and involved list of intricate and complex issues from susceptibility to lawsuits, to jurisdiction, to potential defenses, to enforcement of judgments, and numerous associated matters. Similarly, the topic cannot avoid the possible significance related to distinguishing between claimants that are governments and those that are private individuals or legal entities, as well as the practical ramifications that emerge from the existence and location of assets from which any successfully sought judgment may be satisfied. Similarly, there are the questions of whether the relief desired is to proceed from an adjudicative- or arbitral-type process and whether such a process is to (or must) take place before an international or national tribunal.
Broadly speaking, whenever one foreign sovereign owes a form of debt to another sovereign, the traditional mechanism of diplomacy is most often employed to secure payment. When not completely efficacious, the creditor nation may resort to alternatives to seek satisfaction, including various types of internationally mediated, arbitrated, or adjudicated claim-resolution processes. Clearly, a substantial portion of the debts claimed by one foreign sovereign against another involve debts with their fundamental origins in obligations owed by the creditor sovereign to private individuals or private legal entities considered nationals of the foreign sovereign advancing the claim. This is because most often, the rules of international law are viewed as speaking not to nationals but rather to the nation-states that protect and represent them.