Innovations in Mass Claim Dispute Resolution: Speeding the Resolution of Mass Claims Using Information Technology - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 58, No. 3
Veijo Heiskanen is Of Counsel at Lalive & Partners in Geneva, Switzerland. Previously, Dr. Heiskanen served as Secretary General of the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland, Deputy Chief of the Legal Service of the United Nations Compensation Commission, and Legal Advisor with the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague. He also worked as an expert for the Arbitration Commission for the Former Yugoslavia in Paris. Since 2000, he has served as Commissioner of the Property Claims Commission in Kosovo.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
This article was presented at the international arbitration conference on interim relief and mass claims, sponsored by the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, in Brussels on May 28, 2003. An expanded version of this article will be included in a forthcoming volume on mass-claims practice published by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
International mass claims programs are not a new phenomenon. Large-scale claims programs, known as mixed arbitral tribunals and claims commissions, were a standard method of resolving international claims in the late 19th century and after World War I. Examples are the Boxer Commission, the United States-Mexican Claims Commission, and the United States -German Mixed Claims Commission.1
For a number of reasons, international claims commissions fell out of fashion after World War II.2 They were largely replaced by lump-sum agreements, which dealt with claims arising out of the nationalization and expropriation of foreign property in the aftermath of the war and beyond. Things began to change in the 1980s, when the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was established. By the 1990s, however, a whole series of new mass claims programs were set up.
Although international claims commissions have made a comeback, many things have changed in terms of how submitted claims are processed. One of the principal differences between the claims commissions of the early 20th century and those of today is that most existing international claims programs are heavily computerized. This enables modern claims commissions to use innovative methods and techniques, particularly information technology.
However, modern mass claims processing tools are not unique to international claims programs. In fact, they have been borrowed from class action lawsuits as they are conducted in the United States.
There is a strong structural similarity between domestic class actions and international mass claims. Indeed, institutions such as the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland (CRT II), which is in its second phase,3 and the German Forced Labor Claims Program,4 have arisen out of the settlement of class action lawsuits in the United States.