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Nottebohm Case (Liechtenstein v. Guatemala)

International Court of Justice
1955 I.C.J. 4


Facts

Nottebohm was born a German national in 1881. He received citizenship through naturalization from Liechtenstein (plaintiff) in 1939. Prior to this date, in 1905, Nottebohm lived and performed substantial business dealings in Guatemala (defendant), and returned frequently to Germany to visit family. Once Nottebohm received his citizenship from Liechtenstein, he returned to Guatemala and Guatemalan authorities updated his nationality in the Register of Aliens. On July 17, 1941, the United States blacklisted Nottebohm and froze all his assets which were located in the United States. War broke out between the United States and Germany, and between Guatemala and Germany, on December 11, 1941. Nottebohm was arrested in Guatemala in 1943 and deported to the United States, where he was held until 1946 as an enemy alien. Once released, Nottebohm applied for readmission to Guatemala, but his application was refused. Nottebohm moved his residence to Liechtenstein (where he was a citizen), but Guatemala had already taken steps to confiscate Nottebohm’s property in Liechtenstein. Guatemala succeeded in 1949. Liechtenstein instituted legal proceedings against Guatemala in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), requesting the court declare Guatemala had violated international law “in arresting, detaining, expelling and refusing to readmit Mr. Nottebohm and in seizing and retaining his property.” Additionally, Liechtenstein requested the ICJ to order Guatemala to pay compensation as reparation. Guatemala defended by contesting Nottebohm’s Liechtenstein nationality.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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