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Una buena noticia: la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos de América estima que las inmunidades jurisdiccionales de las organizaciones internacionales son relativas y no absolutas

febrero 28, 2019

Por Nicolás Carrillo Santarelli

El día de ayer se divulgó lo afirmado en el título de esta entrada por parte de diversos activistas e internacionalistas. Es algo bienvenido y lógico. Siendo consciente de que algunos en China y Rusia parecen tener reticencias frente a la idea de que las inmunidades jurisdiccionales de los Estados no son absolutas, como bien ha explicado Anthea Roberts; no tiene sentido decir que un ente soberano tiene inmunidades sólo en algunas circunstancias pero un ente funcional creado frecuentemente por ellos siempre goza de las mismas de forma absoluta; y tampoco es sensato desde una perspectiva crítica o meta-jurídica hacer que el derecho de cobijo a la impunidad de entes que han de servir fines y al ser humano y con frecuencia han hecho lo contrario. Ningún abuso ha de quedar impune y bajo el cobijo del derecho (sería, para mí, un abuso del mismo), sea estatal o no. La distinción entre lo sustantivo y lo procesal en derecho internacional, si bien existe, en ocasiones se invoca de forma retórica y artificiosa para ocultar que lo procedimental muchas veces sí afecta la efectiva protección de lo sustantivo, lo cual genera “luchas” por y en el derecho para modificar las deficiencias y límites de lo procesal, lo cual ha ocurrido, a mi parecer, con la (aún incompleta) evolución y el desarrollo del derecho sobre las inmunidades jurisdiccionales.

En últimas, la Corte Suprema aludió a la remisión al desarrollo que haya en cada momento (intertemporal) a la regulación internacional e interna de las inmunidades jurisdiccionales de los Estados, que han evolucionado en los Estados Unidos desde hace décadas. Por otra parte, sostiene que la relativización de las inmunidades no supone que toda conducta de una organización internacional puede ser demandada sin que sea oponible la inmunidad. En su decisión, la Corte Suprema estadounidense afirmó (habrá que ver si otros órganos decisorios de otros Estados coinciden con ella) lo siguiente:

“The International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945 grants international organizations such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization the “same immunity from suit . . . as is enjoyed by foreign governments.” 22 U. S. C. §288a(b). At the time the IOIA was enacted, foreign governments enjoyed virtually absolute immunity from suit. Today that immunity is more limited. Most significantly, foreign governments are not immune from actions based upon certain kinds of commercial activity in which they engage. This case requires us to determine whether the IOIA grants international organizations the virtually absolute immunity foreign governments enjoyed when the IOIA was enacted, or the more limited immunity they enjoy today […] Until 1952, the State Department adhered to the classical theory of foreign sovereign immunity […] In 1952, however, the State Department announced that it would adopt the newer “restrictive” theory […] Under that theory, foreign governments are entitled to immunity only with respect to their sovereign acts, not with respect to commercial acts […] The International Finance Corporation is an international development bank headquartered in Washington, D. C. The IFC is designated as an international organization under the IOIA […] The IFC is charged with furthering economic development “by encouraging the growth of productive private enterprise in member countries, particularly in the less developed areas, thus supplementing the activities of ” the World Bank […] The IFC expects its loan recipients to adhere to a set of performance standards designed to “avoid, mitigate, and manage risks and impacts” associated with development projects […] The District Court, applying D. C. Circuit precedent, concluded that the IFC was immune from suit because the IOIA grants international organizations the virtually absolute immunity that foreign governments enjoyed when the IOIA was enacted […] In granting international organizations the “same immunity” from suit “as is enjoyed by foreign governments,” the Act seems to continuously link the immunity of international organizations to that of foreign governments, so as to ensure ongoing parity between the two. The statute could otherwise have simply stated that international organizations “shall enjoy absolute immunity from suit,” or specified some other fixed level of immunity. Other provisions of the IOIA, such as the one making the property and assets of international organizations “immune from search,” use such non-comparative language to define immunities in a static way […] The same logic applies here. The IOIA’s reference to the immunity enjoyed by foreign governments is a general rather than specific reference. The reference is to an external body of potentially evolving law—the law of foreign sovereign immunity—not to a specific provision of another statute. The IOIA should therefore be understood to link the law of international organization immunity to the law of foreign sovereign immunity, so that the one develops in tandem with the other […] the IOIA’s instruction to grant international organ- izations the immunity “enjoyed by foreign governments” is an instruction to look up the applicable rules of foreign sovereign immunity, wherever those rules may be found— the common law, the law of nations, or a statute. In other words, it is a general reference to an external body of (potentially evolving) law […]

The IFC first contends that affording international organizations only restrictive immunity would defeat the purpose of granting them immunity in the first place. Allowing international organizations to be sued in one member country’s courts would in effect allow that mem- ber to second-guess the collective decisions of the others. It would also expose international organizations to money damages, which would in turn make it more difficult and expensive for them to fulfill their missions […] The IFC’s concerns are inflated. To begin, the privileges and immunities accorded by the IOIA are only default rules. If the work of a given international organization would be impaired by restrictive immunity, the organization’s charter can always specify a different level of im- munity. The charters of many international organizations do just that […] Nor is there good reason to think that restrictive immunity would expose international development banks to excessive liability. As an initial matter, it is not clear that the lending activity of all development banks qualifies as commercial activity within the meaning of the FSIA. To be considered “commercial,” an activity must be “the type” of activity “by which a private party engages in” trade or commerce. Republic of Argentina v. Weltover, Inc., 504 U. S. 607, 614 (1992); see 28 U. S. C. §1603(d). As the Government suggested at oral argument, the lending activity of at least some development banks, such as those that make conditional loans to governments, may not qualify as “commercial” under the FSIA […] And even if an international development bank’s lend- ing activity does qualify as commercial, that does not mean the organization is automatically subject to suit. The FSIA includes other requirements that must also be met. For one thing, the commercial activity must have a sufficient nexus to the United States. See 28 U. S. C. §§1603, 1605(a)(2). For another, a lawsuit must be “based upon” either the commercial activity itself or acts per- formed in connection with the commercial activity […] The International Finance Corporation is therefore not absolutely immune from suit” (subrayado añadido).

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