Facts: Barcelona Traction was a corporation that controlled light and power utilities in Spain and was incorporated in Toronto, (Canada). In 1948, there was an adjudication in bankruptcy in Spain of Barcelona Traction. Its object was to seek reparation for damage alleged by Belgium to have been sustained by Belgian nationals, shareholders in the company. The Belgian Government, contended that after the First World War Barcelona Traction share capital came to be very largely held by alleged Belgian nationals, but the Spanish Government, maintained that the Belgian nationality of the shareholders was not proven.
Issue: Whether Belgium can bring this case in the ICJ.
Holding: Belgium's claim is rejected.
Reasoning: The Belgian government lacked the standing to exercise diplomatic protection of Belgian shareholders in a Canadian company with respect to measures taken against that company in Spain. The court ruled on the side of the Spanish, holding that only the nationality of the corporation (the Canadians) can sue. The case is important as it demonstrates how the concept of diplomatic protection under international law can apply equally to corporations as to individuals.
Case notes for The Barcelona Traction Case: