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Jurisdiction and Admissibility in International Investment Law

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The distinction between jurisdictional and admissibility issues in investment arbitration is becoming more and more relevant. This results from an emerging jurisprudence emphasizing that a tribunal that lacks jurisdiction will have to dismiss a case brought before it, while it has discretion whether to dismiss a claim for reasons of inadmissibility, in particular, because the latter defects may be curable. Conceptually this difference is rooted in the idea that “jurisdiction is an attribute of a tribunal and not of a claim, whereas admissibility is an attribute of a claim but not of a tribunal”,1 with the consequence that “[t]he concept of ‘admissibility’ refers to the varied reasons that a tribunal, although it has jurisdiction, may decline to hear a case or a claim.”2This overview article will briefly outline a number of issues in regard to which investment tribunals have disagreed whether to qualify them as jurisdictional or admissibility-related. These range from so-called waiting periods, requiring investors to first seek amicable dispute settlement or to litigate before national courts, to express or implied “in accordance with host state law”-clauses. This article argues that the outcomes of many of these cases, which often appear to be inconsistent, may be explained on the basis of different conceptual qualifications as jurisdictional or admissibility-related issues.

Affiliations: 1: University of Vienna


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