In re Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Co Ltd (Belgium v Spain) (second phase): ICJ 5 Feb 1970

ICJ The claim arose out of the adjudication in bankruptcy in Spain of Barcelona Traction, a company incorporated in Canada. Its object was to seek reparation for damage alleged by Belgium to have been sustained by Belgian nationals, shareholders in the company, as a result of acts said to be contrary to international law committed towards the company by organs of the Spanish State. The Court found that Belgium lacked jus standi to exercise diplomatic protection of shareholders in a Canadian company with respect to measures taken against that company in Spain. However, it derived from municipal law a limited principle permitting the piercing of the corporate veil in cases of misuse, fraud, malfeasance or evasion of legal obligations.
It is up to the protecting State of the injured national whether and how far to make it available: ‘The Court would here observe that, within the limits prescribed by international law, a State may exercise diplomatic protection by whatever means and to whatever extent it thinks fit, for it is its own right that the State is asserting Should the natural or legal person on whose behalf it is acting consider that their rights are not adequately protected, they have no remedy in international law. All they can do is resort to national law, if means are available, with a view to furthering their cause or obtaining redress. The municipal legislator may lay upon the State an obligation to protect its citizens abroad, and may also confer upon the national a right to demand the performance of that obligation, and clothe the right with corresponding sanctions. However, all these questions remain within the province of municipal law and do not affect the position internationally. . .
The State must be viewed as the sole judge to decide whether its protection will be granted, to what extent it is granted, and when it will cease. It retains in this respect a discretionary power the exercise of which may be determined by considerations of a political or other nature, unrelated to the particular claim.’


[1970] ICJ Rep 3



Cited by:

CitedRegina v Immigration Officer at Prague Airport and another, ex parte European Roma Rights Centre and others HL 9-Dec-2004
Extension oh Human Rights Beyond Borders
The appellants complained that the system set up by the respondent where Home Office officers were placed in Prague airport to pre-vet applicants for asylum from Romania were dsicriminatory in that substantially more gypsies were refused entry than . .
CitedEnron Corporation v The Argentine Republic ICSID 14-Jan-2004
The Barcelona Traction case ‘has been held not to be controlling in investment claims such as the present, as it deals with the separate question of diplomatic protection in a particular setting’ and that: ‘what the State of nationality of the . .
CitedOccidental Exploration and Production Company vRepublic of Ecuador CA 9-Sep-2005
The parties had arbitrated their dispute in London under a bilateral investment treaty between the US and Ecuador. The republic sought to appeal the arbitration. The applicant now appealed an order that the English High Court had jurisdiction to . .
CitedCamuzzi International SA v The Argentine Republic (No 2) ICSID 11-May-2005
(Spanish Text) Diplomatic protection ‘cannot be considered the general rule in the system of international law presently governing the matter, but as a residual mechanism available when the affected individual has no direct channel in its own . .
CitedRegina (on the application of Abassi and Another) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Another CA 6-Nov-2002
A British national had been captured in Afghanistan, and was being held without remedy by US forces. His family sought an order requiring the respondent to take greater steps to secure his release or provide other assistance.
Held: Such an . .
CitedPrest v Petrodel Resources Ltd and Others SC 12-Jun-2013
In the course of ancillary relief proceedings in a divorce, questions arose regarding company assets owned by the husband. The court was asked as to the power of the court to order the transfer of assets owned entirely in the company’s names. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

International, Company

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.220676