1980

US

Letelier v Chile 488 F. Supp 665 District Court, DC (1980) 1992 Chile US international commission

Isabel de Letelier sued via tort claim [private or civil wrong or injury resulting from a breach of a legal duty that exists by virtue of society’s expectations regarding interpersonal conduct, rather than by contract or other private relationship] the Republic of Chile alleging that it had directed the car bomb death in Washington, D.C. of her husband Orlando Letelier, and another person. Chile sent a note suggesting that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court award $5 million, The judgement was not satisfied and an attempt to obtain execution against assets of the Chilean National airline was rejected by a court of Appeals, 1984. The US made an international claim against Chile, that rejected responsibility for the incident, but expressed its willingness to make and ex gratia payment. The amount was to be determined by The ChileUS I Commission

Court: neither the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act 1976 nor the act of state doctrine would protect a foreign government from civil liability if it ordered an assassination that took place in the US The court of appeal rejected the execution on the airline since the claim of execution was based in an alleged connection of the airline with the tort proved, which was not sustained. On the other hand, the legislation on state immunity required that the property was used in a commercial activity related to the principal claim; ‘political assassinations’ could not be considered a commercial activity. The Commission assessed damages “in conformity with the applicable principles of international law, as though liability were established” (paragraph 4 of the compromis), taking into account moral damage but not punitive damage: in fact no claim for punitive damages was made