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Q: Legal Jurisdiction over the World Bank ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Legal Jurisdiction over the World Bank
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: ack79-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 14 Nov 2005 20:28 PST
Expires: 14 Dec 2005 20:28 PST
Question ID: 593072
If I wanted to sue the World Bank Group, what court has legal
jurisdiction? (Specificly)
    a) Who, if anyone, can hold the World Bank legally
    b) Can a non- governmental organization bring a case
against the World Bank if they fund projects that violate one of the
nine international human rights conventions?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 15 Nov 2005 12:52 PST
The World Bank is covered by the International Organizations
Immunities Act which, as the name suggests, provides broad legal
protection for the Bank from being sued.

The protection isn't absolute, however, and there have been a few
cases against the Bank -- mostly employee-related -- that have been
recognized as legitimate by the US courts.

However, it's a real uphill slog to make the case that a particular
suit is warranted, and that the immunities generally afforded the
World Bank shouldn't apply.

To my knowledge, there have not been suits that were recognized as
legitimate that involved human rights issues.

To really tease out the legalities of when the Bank could or couldn't
be sued is something that goes well beyond the scope of a $25

But if you wanted information about the relatively small number of
suits that have gone forward against the World Bank, I can certainly
provide that as an answer to your question.

Let me know your thoughts on this.


Clarification of Question by ack79-ga on 15 Nov 2005 14:33 PST
Dear pafalafa,

Thank you for your helpful insight to the legal protections awarded to
the World Bank.  In fact, you provided me with as much information as
I need for the moment.  I am researching various methods to hold the
World Bank accountable for human rights violations either perpetrated
by them or exacerbated by their support of governments who violate
human rights.

Thank you again.
Subject: Re: Legal Jurisdiction over the World Bank
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 15 Nov 2005 15:45 PST

I'm glad that the information I provided was enough to get you started on this.

For what it's worth, I entirely agree with your mission, and hope you
find the tools to fully accomplish your task.  Let me know if there's
anything else I can do to help you out.

All the best,


search strategy -- searched legal databases for cases involving the
World Bank or the International Bank for Reconstruction and

Request for Answer Clarification by ack79-ga on 15 Nov 2005 17:11 PST
Dear Pafalafa,

To clarify, the International Organizations Immunities Act is only a
law in the United States.  Does the World Bank have the same
protections in the international courts, such as the International
Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court?

Thank you,

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 15 Nov 2005 18:34 PST

I don't know nearly as much about international law as I do about US
law (and even though, I'm only an interested layman).  However, my
understanding of things is as follows:

--The International Court of Justice works through a system of
referrals by member states.  Only if a country chose to refer a case
involving the World Bank, would the ICJ consider the case.  You can
read a bit about its jurisdiction here:
"The Court has a dual role: to settle in accordance with international
law the legal disputes submitted to it by States, and to give advisory
opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized
international organs and agencies..."

The International Criminal Court is a very recent creation, without
much of a track record to set precedent on what sort of cases it will
or won't review.  However, it's intent is certainly focused on the
most serious sorts of crimes against humanity -- genocide, war crimes,
and the like.  I'm not sure they would see the actions of the World
Bank as rising to this level of egregiousness.  And again, it is
largely the member states that must initiate actions:

You can read a bit more about the jurisdictions of the ICC here:

...The ICC will have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes.

...Proceedings before the ICC may be initiated by a State Party, the
Prosecutor or the United Nations Security Council.


Hope that helps.

Subject: Re: Legal Jurisdiction over the World Bank
From: elids-ga on 15 Nov 2005 08:52 PST
Can't imagine why anybody would even consider bringing a lawsuit
against an international organization that is dedicated to alleviating
poverty and improving health worldwide, but if that is what you


Pursuant to the Convention, ICSID provides facilities for the
conciliation and arbitration of disputes between member countries and
investors who qualify as nationals of other member countries. Recourse
to ICSID conciliation and arbitration is entirely voluntary. However,
once the parties have consented to arbitration under the ICSID
Convention, neither can unilaterally withdraw its consent. Moreover,
all ICSID Contracting States, whether or not parties to the dispute,
are required by the Convention to recognize and enforce ICSID arbitral

Besides providing facilities for conciliation and arbitration under
the ICSID Convention, the Centre has since 1978 had a set of
Additional Facility Rules authorizing the ICSID Secretariat to
administer certain types of proceedings between States and foreign
nationals which fall outside the scope of the Convention. These
include conciliation and arbitration proceedings where either the
State party or the home State of the foreign national is not a member
of ICSID. Additional Facility conciliation and arbitration are also
available for cases where the dispute is not an investment dispute
provided it relates to a transaction which has "features that
distinguishes it from an ordinary commercial transaction." The
Additional Facility Rules further allow ICSID to administer a type of
proceedings not provided for in the Convention, namely fact-finding
proceedings to which any State and foreign national may have recourse
if they wish to institute an inquiry "to examine and report on facts."
Subject: Re: Legal Jurisdiction over the World Bank
From: myoarin-ga on 16 Nov 2005 06:51 PST
"  b) Can a non- governmental organization bring a case
against the World Bank if they fund projects that violate one of the
nine international human rights conventions?"

I (layman^2) expect that projects funded by the World Bank are the
responsibility of other entities, thus separating the WB from
responsibility.  I would even venture to say that it would not be
difficult to identify projects in which human rights have been
violated (not to mention misuse of funds and other violations).

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