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Nottebohn Case (Liechtenstein v. Guatemala)

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. I.C.J. 1955, I.C.J., 4 (1955)

Brief Fact Summary.

A month after the start of World War II, Nottebohn (P), a German citizen who had lived in Guatemala (D) for 34 years, applied for Liechtenstein (P) citizenship.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Nationality may be disregarded by other states where it is clear that it was a mere device since the nationality conferred on a party is normally only the concerns of that nation


Nottebohn (P), a German by birth, lived in Guatemala (D) for 34 years, retaining his German citizenship and family and business ties with it. He however applied for Liechtenstein (P) citizenship a month after the outbreak of World War II. Nottebohm (P) had no ties with Liechtenstein but intended to remain in Guatemala. The naturalization application was approved by Liechtenstein and impliedly waived its three-year. After this approval, Nottebohm (P) travelled to Liechtenstein and upon his return to Guatemala (D), he was refused entry because he was deemed to be a German citizen. His Liechtenstein citizenship was not honored.  Liechtenstein (P) thereby filed a suit before the International Court to compel Guatemala (D) to recognize him as one of its national. Guatemala (D) challenged the validity of Nottebohm’s (P) citizenship, the right of Liechtenstein (P) to bring the action and alleged its belief that Nottebohm (P) remained a German national.


Must nationality be disregarded by other states where it is clear that it was a mere device since the nationality conferred on a party is normally the concerns of that nation?


NO. issues relating to citizenship are solely the concern of the granting nation. This is the general rule. But it does not mean that other states will automatically accept the conferring state’s designation unless it has acted in conformity with the general aim of forging a genuine bond between it and its national aim. In this case, there was no relationship between Liechtenstein (P) and Nottebohm (P). the change of nationality was merely a subterfuge mandated by the war. Under this circumstance, Guatemala (D) was not forced to recognize it. Dismissed.


A state putting forth a claim must establish a locus standi for that purpose. Without interruption and continuously from the time of the injury to the making of an award been a national of the state making the claim and must not have been a national of the state against whom the claim has been filed. International law 347 (8th Ed. 1955) Vol.1.

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