Expert: Seizure of frozen Russian assets would undermine international law,

The state has begun to develop a legal basis for the transfer of frozen Russian assets in Estonia. While appropriating these might seem like an attractive way to help Ukraine, international law does not in general permit this, professor of international law and security at Tallinn University Tiina Pajuste said in an interview with ERR, which follows in its entirety.

What barriers in international law need to be able to be overcome in order to take possession of sanctioned Russian assets?

Under international law, the transfer of the property of a foreign country or its citizens is prohibited (states are protected by immunity, and private individuals by international investment law and human rights). This immunity of states protects them from being judged on by other states, and from the use of executive power against them (including the transfer of assets).

In 2012, the International Court of Justice confirmed, in a case involving Germany and Italy, that a state has immunity even in the case of a serious violation of human rights or a violation of another fundamental norm of international law (for instance regarding the prohibition of the use of force).

The only scope that international law offers is the possibility of countermeasures. Countermeasures are illegal acts in and of themselves, but are justified by a previous violation by the other party. However, the use of such measures is limited, and strict conditions must be met. Countermeasures must be limited to the non-fulfilment of the international obligations of that country- in this case Estonia – implementing measures against the responsible country – in this case Russia. Läs artikel