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Israel Argues Its Case Against Bulgaria Before International Court

March 25, 1959
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For the second successive day, today, Shabtai Rosenne, chief legal officer for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, argued Israel’s case here before the International Court of Justice, contending that Bulgaria cannot wipe out its obligation to pay damages in excess of $7,000,000 for shooting down an El Al Israel airplane in 1955, causing the loss of 58 lives. Mr. Rosenne is scheduled to complete oral argument tomorrow.

Most of Mr. Rosenne’s argument is centered on answering one point, made on behalf of Bulgaria, which claims that it is not obligated to recognize the world court’s jurisdiction in this case. Bulgaria has contended that, while the former Kingdom of Bulgaria did sign an international treaty in 1921 accepting the jurisdiction of the old Permanent Court of International Justice, that signature is now void, since the old court had been affiliated with the defunct League of Nations. On the other hand, Bulgaria has held, the present court cannot assume jurisdiction over Israel’s complaint because, at the time of the 1955 incident Bulgaria was not yet a member of the United Nations, The present court is an organ of the UN.

Insisting that the court’s jurisdiction is valid now, Mr. Rosenne argued that various experts on international law, including some who are natives of countries in the Soviet orbit have upheld Israel’s major thesis. In support, Mr. Rosenne cited opinions by two eminent jurists from the Soviet Union, a former Soviet member of the International Law Commission and a Bulgarian authority’s comment dealing with this point in international law.

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