Federal and International Proceedings – United States Acceptance of International Court of Justice Compulsory Jurisdiction

In October 1957 Switzerland, on behalf of the holding company now commonly known as Interhandel, addressed an application against the United States to the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.). Claiming I.C.J. jurisdiction by reason of the United States adherence to article 36 (2) of the Statute of the Court, Switzerland’s submissions were essentially that the United States was under an obligation (1) to restore to Interhandel assets of the General Aniline and Film Corp which had been seized in 1942 pursuant to the Trading with the Enemy Act, and, as an alternative, (2) to submit the dispute to arbitration. The United States countered with four preliminary objections to jurisdiction.6 Most important were objections, that ” … Interhandel … has not exhausted the local remedies available to it in the United States courts,” and 4 (a), that the “sale or disposition [ of GAF assets] has been determined by the United States of America, pursuant to paragraph (b) of the Conditions attached to this country’s acceptance of this Court’s jurisdiction [the automatic reservation], to be a matter essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of this country.” By order of October 24, 1957, the court rejected, for lack of urgency, Switzerland’s request to indicate interim measures. On March 21, 1959, the court rendered judgment on the preliminary objections. By a nine-judge majority, held, the application is inadmissible for failure to exhaust local remedies. Ten judges found it unnecessary to adjudicate upon objection 4 (a), observing that the objection was made only with regard to disposition of the vested assets, and that the United States had not yet determined to make such disposition.Interhandel Case (Preliminary), [1959] I.C.J. Rep. 6.