PCIJ Judgement No. 13, Case Concerning The Factory At Chorzów, at http://www.icj-cij.org/pcij/serie_A/A_17/54_Usine_de_Chorzow_Fond_Arret.pdf, also published in PCIJ, Series A, No. 17, Sept. 13th, 1928.

[Full text in English and French at http://www.icj-cij.org/pcij/serie_A/A_17/54_Usine_de_Chorzow_Fond_Arret.pdf.]









It is a principle of international law that the reparation of a wrong may consist in an indemnity corresponding to the damage which the nationals of the injured State have suffered28as a result of the act which is contrary to international law. This is even the most usual form of reparation; it is the form selected by Germany in this case and the admissibility of it has not been disputed. The reparation due by one State to another does not however change its character by reason of the fact that it takes the form of an indemnity for the calculation of which the damage suffered by a private person is taken as the measure. The rules of law governing the reparation are the rules of international law in force between the two States concerned, and not the law governing relations between the State which has committed a wrongful act and the individual who has suffered damage. Rights or interests of an individual the violation of which rights causes damage are always in a different plane to rights belonging to a State, which rights may also be infringed by the same act. The damage suffered by an individual is never therefore identical in kind with that which will be suffered by a State; it can only afford a convenient scale for the calculation of the reparation due to the State.




As regards the first point, the Court observes that it is a principle of international law, and even a general conception of law, that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation. In Judgment No. 8, when deciding on the jurisdiction derived by it from Article 23 of the Geneva Convention, the Court has already said that reparation is the indispensable complement of a failure to apply a convention, and there is no necessity for this to be stated in the convention itself. The existence of the principle establishing the obligation to make reparation, as an element of positive international law, has moreover never been disputed in the course of the proceedings in the various cases concerning the Chorzów factory.






The action of Poland which the Court has judged to be contrary to the Geneva Convention is not an expropriation - to render which lawful only the payment of fair compensation would have been wanting; it is a seizure of property, rights and interests which could not be expropriated even against compensation, save under the exceptional conditions fixed by Article 7 of the said Convention. As the Court has expressly declared in Judgment No. 8, reparation is in this case the consequence not of the application of Articles 6 to 22 of the Geneva Convention, but of acts contrary to those articles.


It follows that the compensation due to the German Government is not necessarily limited to the value of the undertaking at the moment of dispossession, plus interest to the day of payment. This limitation would only be admissible if the Polish Government had had the right to expropriate, and if its wrongful act consisted merely in not having paid to the two Companies the just price of what was expropriated; in the present case, such a limitation might result in placing Germany and the interests protected by the Geneva Convention, on behalf of which interests the German Government is acting, in a situation more unfavourable than that in which Germany and these interests would have been if Poland had respected the said Convention. Such a consequence would not only be unjust, but also and above all incompatible with the aim of Article 6 and following articles of the Convention - that is to say, the prohibition, in principle, of the liquidation of the property, rights and interests of German nationals and of companies controlled by German nationals in Upper Silesia - since it would be tantamount to rendering lawful liquidation and unlawful dispossession indistinguishable in so far as their financial results are concerned.

The essential principle contained in the actual notion of an illegal act - a principle which seems to be established by international practice and in particular by the decisions of arbitral tribunals - is that reparation must, as far as possible, wipe-out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed. Restitution in kind, or, if this is not possible, payment of a sum corresponding to the value which a restitution in kind would bear; the award, if need be, of damages for loss sustained which would not be covered by restitution in kind or payment in place of it - such are the principles which should serve to determine the amount of compensation due for an act contrary to international law.

This conclusion particularly applies as regards the Geneva Convention, the object of which is to provide for the maintenance of economic life in Upper Silesia on the basis of respect for the status quo. The dispossession of an industrial undertaking - the expropriation of which is prohibited by the48Geneva Convention - then involves the obligation to restore the undertaking and, if this be not possible, to pay its value at the time of the indemnification, which value is designed to take the place of restitution which has become impossible. To this obligation, in virtue of the general principles of international law, must be added that of compensating loss sustained as the result of the seizure. The impossibility, on which the Parties are agreed, of restoring the Chorzów factory could therefore have no other effect but that of substituting payment of the value of the undertaking for restitution ; it would not be in conformity either with the principles of law or with the wish of the Parties to infer from that agreement that the question of compensation must henceforth be dealt with as though an expropriation properly so called was involved.








If the German submission is read literally, it is possible to regard it as mainly designed to prevent a specific case of set-off, that is to say, the setting-off in this case of the claim which the Polish Government contends that it possesses in respect of social insurances in Upper Silesia, and which was the cause of the failure of the negotiations between the two Governments following Judgment No. 7. But, if we consider the submission in the light of the observations contained in the Case and more especially in the Reply, it is easy to see that the claim in respect of social insurances in Upper Silesia is only taken as an example. In reality, the German Government asks the Court for a decision of principle the effect of which would be either to prevent the set-off of any counterclaim against the indemnity fixed in the judgment to be given by the Court, or, alternatively, only to allow such set-off in certain defined circumstances.

Though, as has been seen, the Polish Government for its part confines itself in its submission to asking the Court to reject the German submission, the arguments advanced in61support of its claim clearly show that it considers the said German submission to be both premature and inadmissible, and that the Court has therefore no power to deal with it.

The question of the Court's jurisdiction is thus clearly raised. Since there is no agreement between the Parties to submit to the Court the so-called question of set-off, it remains first of all to be considered whether the Court has jurisdiction to pass judgment on the German submission No. 4 (d) in virtue of any other provision, which, in the present case, could only be Article 23 of the Geneva Convention.

It is clear that the question whether international law allows claims to be set-off against each other, and if so, under what conditions such set-off is permitted, is, in itself, outside the jurisdiction derived by the Court from the said article. But the German Government contends that the question raised by it only relates to one aspect of the payment which the Polish Government must make and that, this being so, it constitutes a difference of opinion covered by the arbitration clause contained in the article.

The Court considers that this argument must be interpreted in the sense that the prohibition of set-off is asked for in order to ensure that in the present case reparation shall be really effective.

It may be admitted, as the Court has said in Judgment No. 8, that jurisdiction as to the reparation due for the violation of an international convention involves jurisdiction as to the forms and methods of reparation. If the reparation consists in the payment of a sum of money, the Court may therefore determine the method of such payment. For this reason it may well determine to whom the payment shall be made, in what place and at what moment; in a lump sum or maybe by instalments; where payment shall be made; who shall bear the costs, etc. It is then a question of applying to a particular case the general rules regarding payment, and the Court's jurisdiction arises quite naturally out of its jurisdiction to award monetary compensation.

But this principle would be quite unjustifiably extended if it were taken as meaning that the Court might have cognizance of any question whatever of international law62 even quite foreign to the convention under consideration, for the sole reason that the manner in which such question is decided may have an influence on the effectiveness of the reparation asked for. Such an argument seems hardly reconcilable with the fundamental principles of the Court's jurisdiction, which is limited to cases specially provided for in treaties and conventions in force.

The German Government's standpoint however is that the power of the Court to decide on the exclusion of set-off is derived from the power which it has to provide that reparation shall be effective. Now, it seems clear that this argument can only refer to a plea of set-off raised against the beneficiary by the debtor, of such a nature as to deprive reparation of its effectiveness. Such for instance would be the case if the claim put forward against the claim on the score of reparation was in dispute and was to lead to proceedings which would in any case have resulted in delaying the entry into possession by the person concerned of the compensation awarded to him. On the contrary, if a liquid and undisputed claim is put forward against the reparation claim, it is not easy to see why a plea of set-off based on this demand should necessarily prejudice the effectiveness of the reparation. It follows that the Court's Jurisdiction under Article 23 of the Geneva Convention could in any case only be relied on in regard to a plea raised by the respondent Party.

Now it is admitted that Poland has raised no plea of set-off in regard to any particular claim asserted by her against the German Government.

It is true that in the negotiations which followed Judgment No. 7 Poland had put forward a claim to set off a part of the indemnity which she would have undertaken to pay the German Government, against the claim which she put forward in regard to social insurances in Upper Silesia. But the Court has already had occasion to state that it can take no account of declarations, admissions or proposals which the Parties may have made during direct negotiations between them. Moreover, there is nothing to justify the Court in thinking that the Polish Government would wish to put forward, against a judgment of the Court, claims which it may have thought63fit to raise during friendly negotiations which the Parties intended should lead to a compromise. The Court must also draw attention in this connection to what it has already said in Judgment No. 1 to the effect that it neither can nor should contemplate the contingency of the judgment not being complied with at the expiration of the time fixed for compliance.

In these circumstances the Court must abstain from passing upon the submissions in question.


Referring Principles
Trans-Lex Principle: III.1 - Set-off
Trans-Lex Principle: VII.1 - Damages in case of non-performance
Trans-Lex Principle: XI.1 - Compensation for expropriation
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