Human rights landmark in ICSID tribunal

20 November 2009

For the first time ever, a tribunal of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) will hear human rights arguments. Arbitrating between South Africa and foreign investors in mining, in a dispute over national legislation for black empowerment, the tribunal has ordered that key legal filings be disclosed, enabling human rights groups to make submissions concerning public interest issues. An international set of organisations — the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Legal Resources Centre, the Center for International Environmental Law, and INTERIGHTS — argue that bilateral investment treaties should be interpreted in accordance with South Africa’s human rights obligations. The tribunal will take submissions until 21st December. Hearings are scheduled for April 2010; the tribunal is yet to decide whether they will be public.