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Tinoco Claims Arbitration (Great Britain v. Costa Rica)

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. 1 U.N. Rep. Int’l Arb. Awards 369 (1923)

    Brief Fact Summary. The Tinoco regime, which was the former government of Costa Rica, was alleged by Great Britain to have granted oil concession to a British company that had to be honored by the present regime.


    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A government need not conform to a previous constitution if the government had established itself and maintained a peaceful de facto administration and non-recognition of the government by other government does not destroy the de facto status of the government.


    Facts. The Tinoco regime that had seized power in Costa Rica by coup was not recognized by Great Britain and the United States. When the regime was removed, the new government nullified all Tinoco’c contract including an oil concession to a British company. The claim of Great Britain (P) was that the contract could not be repudiated because the Tinoco government was the only government in existence at the time of the contract was signed. This view was not shared by Costa Rica (D) who claimed that Great Britain (P) was estopped from enforcing the contract by its non-recognition of the Tinoco regime. The matter was sent for arbitration.


    Issue. Does a government need to conform to a previous constitution if the government had established itself and maintained a peaceful de facto administration and does non-recognition of the government by other government destroy the de facto status of the government?


    Held. (Taft, C.J., Arb). No. A government need not conform to a previous constitution if the government had established itself and maintained a peaceful de facto administration and non-recognition of the government by other government does not destroy the de facto status of the government. The non-recognition of the Tinoco regime by Great Britain did not dispute the de facto existence of that regime. There is no estoppel since the successor government had not been led by British non-recognition to change its position.


    Discussion. Estoppel was not found by the arbitrator. The evidence of the de facto status of the Tinoco’s regime was not outweighed by the evidence of non-recognition. This implies that valid contracts may be formed by unrecognized government.



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