A report from Friends of the Earth and others deals with cases under the ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement) parallel justice system for corporations and explains how the rich and companies can sue countries when they think that government decisions or court rulings – even ones whose explicit aim is to protect people or the environment – affect their profits.  These lawsuits bypass domestic courts and take place before an international tribunal of arbitrators: essentially 3 investment lawyers who decide whether private profits or public interests are more important.  For example, after Colombia’s Constitutional Court banned mining activities in a sensitive ecosystem which provides drinking water for millions of Colombians, Canadian mining company Eco Oro sued the country for $764 million in damages.  When Croatian courts cancelled illegal permits issued for a luxury golf resort in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia was hit with a $500 million compensation claim.  Romania is defending itself from a shocking $5.7 billion claim by Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources, after the country’s courts declared the company’s proposed toxic Roşia Montană gold mine illegal.  It says that, globally, almost 1,000 ISDS cases are known of to date, in which governments have been sued for more than $623 billion in total.  This figure is equivalent to 90% of all Foreign Direct Investment flows to all developing countries in 2018.  The total amount of money which states have thus far been ordered or agreed to pay in disclosed ISDS rulings and settlements is $88 billion.  It also reports that many countries are rejecting the concept – South Africa, Indonesia, India, for example, have terminated some of their bilateral investment treaties (BIT) in recent years; and in 2019, EU Member States announced that they would terminate all their bilateral treaties with each other – roughly 200 agreements, and Italy has also left the Energy Charter Treaty, a large ISDS deal for the energy sector.


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Politico on 19th August carried a fascinating article about Belgium’s Prince Laurent, younger brother of the King Philippe, who has been feuding with Prime Minister Charles Michel and his ministers since at least 2017, when the government docked his yearly allowance.  It says that at the heart of the disagreement, according to the prince, is what he describes as the government’s failure to defend his interests in a dispute over €50 million he says he was promised by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for a massive forestry scheme gone awry.  Billions of euros of Gaddafi’s funds are frozen in Brussels, but the prince is furious that he is forbidden from being repaid with money from these accounts.  Prince Laurent links with Gaddafi date from a meeting in Brussels in 2004.  In 2008, In 2008, a multi-million euro contract was signed authorising the Prince to carry out a large-scale reforestation project at 3 sites in Libya.  After Gaddafi was killed in the 2011 coup, the new minister of agriculture began demanding money from the prince before the project was allowed to advance.  Then the Prince sued the new UN-backed government in a Belgian court, was awarded €50 million in damages, but with no indication of how he was to obtain it.  He then discovered that despite €15 billion of Libya’s sovereign wealth being frozen by UN sanctions in Brussels, Belgium was allowing hundreds of millions of euros in interest payments to flow out – but with none to him.  It is reported that Belgium lobbied on behalf of Belgian companies (like arms manufacturer FN Herstal) but not the Prince.  In any event, all interest payments from the Libyan funds  have been blocked after a decision by the Belgian judiciary in 2017, with the government seeking clarity from both the UN and European Commission on how to interpret the sanctions related to Libya.

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