Considerations on the Distinction Between Form and Substance in International Law (Public and Private)

Ricardo Gosalbo Bono
Catedrático Derecho Internacional Público, Vrije Universiteit Bruselas (Professor of Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

The distinction between form and substance based on watertight, rigid criteria has experienced a renewed actuality owing to a series of controversial international judgments that have introduced disproportionate formal requirements in the field of public international Law. These new formal conditions have put into question the traditional informal flexibility of public international law and have impaired the realization of fairness as a unitary and impartial corpus, both procedural and substantive, within the international Rule of Law. Notwithstanding, an analysis of the relevant international practice demonstrates that the quest for international justice at the present stage of change that the international community is experiencing, demands a fluid permeability between the frontiers of form and substance, which have become interdependent and without great value when applied autonomously. Simultaneously, in the field of private International Law, the requirements of the present dynamism of the international relations and transactions between private individuals and economic operators have revealed the failure and inadequacy of the rule lex fori regit processum, as formulated and applied in its traditional, unilateral and exclusive scope, both for the purpose of assuring equal treatment between the parties in a dispute and for the realization of substantial justice. In the absence of procedural, transnational principles and rules accepted universally, some national legislators and courts, in particular the European Union, have had a laudable recourse to developing bilateral conflict rules of a procedural nature in order to meet the new challenges, in particular those relating to the characterization and the application of foreign law.

SUMARIO: 1. INTRODUCCIÓN.—2. FONDO Y FORMA EN DERECHO INTERNACIONAL PÚBLICO.—2.1. La génesis informal de las fuentes del Derecho internacional.—2.2. El desafío formalista de la reciente jurisprudencia internacional.—2.3. Sobre la inutilidad e inconveniencia de establecer criterios estancos en la distinción entre fondo y forma.—3. EL DECLIVE DE LA NORMA LEX FORI REGIT PROCESSUM.—3.1. La crisis de la distinción entre consuetudo ad litem decidendam y consuetudo ad litis ordinationem introducta.—3.2. Fondo y forma en la calificación.—3.3. Fondo y forma en la aplicación de la ley extranjera.—3.4. La conflictualización de la lex fori regit processum.—4. CONCLUSIONES.

bilateral conflict rules; characterization; competence and access to international justice; exhaustion of local remedies; foreign law; formalistic challenge; human rights; international terrorism; jurisdiction; Jus cogens; lex fori regit processum; protection of the environment; responsibility and reparation; sources of International Law; substantive and procedural principles;

REDI Vol. 71 1 2019




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