Chicago Journal of International Law


If war is hell, then how do you make amends for the suffering of hell? Herein lies the conundrum of war reparations. International law can deal with revolutions, catastrophes, and lesser evils we euphemistically call acts of God. But when the fury of hell is unleashed on earth, international law quakes. The great irony of war is that the more catastrophic and widespread its destructive consequences, the less likely that those caught in its path will ever be repaid for their injury. There simply is not enough salve to heal the wounds of war. Heaven knows we try. Indeed, war reparations are on the make in the twenty- first century: we enthusiastically embrace mechanisms for Holocaust reparations, Gulf War reparations, Yugoslav reparations, and Ethiopian and Eritrean reparations. But beneath the veneer, it is clear that no effective remedy exists to respond to the horror of war. Like many others, I have spent much of my career working to redress the consequences of wars and revolutions: first, at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal as a legal advisor; second, in private practice representing claimants before the United Nations Compensation Commission; third, as a senior legal advisor for the Claims Resolution Tribunal resolving claims to Holocaust-era dormant Swiss bank accounts; and most recently, advising clients regarding prisoner-of-war claims againstJapanese corporations arising out of the Second World War. This perspective therefore contains my musings on war and its aftermath.