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Home » ICJ Cases » ICJ Cases on Statelessness

ICJ Cases on Statelessness

International Court of Justice Cases on Statelessness

Article 1 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons 1954 defines a “stateless person” as a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law, for the purpose of the convention.

Case on Statelessness

Nottebohm (Liechtenstein v. Guatemala) [1955] ICJ 1

In this case, Liechtenstein claimed restitution and compensation from the Government of Guatemala on the ground that the latter had acted towards Friedrich Nottebohm, a citizen of Liechtenstein, in a manner contrary to international law. Guatemala objected to the Court’s jurisdiction but the Court overruled this objection in a Judgment of 18 November 1953.

In a second Judgment, of 6 April 1955, the Court held that Liechtenstein’s claim was inadmissible on grounds relating to Mr. Nottebohm’s nationality. It was the bond of nationality between a State and an individual which alone conferred upon the State the right to put forward an international claim on his behalf. Mr. Nottebohm, who was then a German national, had settled in Guatemala in 1905 and continued to reside there.

In October 1939 — after the beginning of the Second World War — while on a visit to Europe, he obtained Liechtenstein nationality and returned to Guatemala in 1940, where he resumed his former business activities until his removal as a result of war measures in 1943.

On the international plane, the grant of nationality is entitled to recognition by other States only if it represents a genuine connection between the individual and the State granting its nationality. Mr. Nottebohm’s nationality, however, was not based on any genuine prior link with Liechtenstein and the sole object of his naturalization was to enable him to acquire the status of a neutral national in time of war.

For these reasons, Liechtenstein was not entitled to take up his case and put forward an international claim on his behalf against Guatemala.


Check full case on ICJ Website.

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